It’s no secret that the economy is in a little bit of trouble. There’s the prospect that the UK economy could be heading towards a ‘triple-dip’ recession, which has given the current coalition government reason to try and slash their annual budget. Many departments including welfare and security are feeling the pinch, but it seems that healthcare could be affected more than most.
Governments all over the world are looking to reduce their spending, with many faced by growing mountains of debt caused by rising unemployment, bailing out of companies deemed ‘too big to fail’ and general overspending in better times. To try and combat the debt, some governments are left with little choice but to implement austerity measures.
Healthcare: no longer a sacred cow
Healthcare is among the biggest areas of spending for many nations. While an essential service, some politicians are opposed to the idea of universal healthcare, while others believe that to try and reduce spending, privatisation or partial closure of some services are vital. In any event, healthcare is among the first things to suffer during prolonged periods of economic misery.
In recent months, closures of wards, accident and emergency (A&E) services and even entire hospitals have been approved to the dismay of local communities. As a result, protests like those in the Lewisham area of London have taken place, with some managing to reverse the decisions made by healthcare bosses, but that’s not always the case.
Waiting too long
Another consequence of healthcare cuts is that those services are spared from being culled entirely are more than likely to get worse. Pressure to reduce spending can sometimes mean that skilled nurses, doctors, surgeons and even admin staff and cleaners are made redundant, leaving less staff to do more work.
This could be catastrophic, as overworked members of staff are less likely to do a good job. Also, if there are less people to work in a hospital or health centre, dirtier wards and equipment, slower response times and longer waiting lists for operations are potentially something that could become the norm.
Longer waiting times in A&E departments in particular are becoming a problem for many patients. According to an article on medicalsolicitors.co.uk, some patients admitted to A&E after serious accidents are being made to wait in excess of four hours before they get to see a doctor to find out what’s wrong with them.
A possible solution
The issue of waiting times is a thorny issue, but in the Isle of Man, it seems that they’re trying to tackle the problem of waiting in hospital for urgent medical attention. Waiting lists for operations are an even bigger problem, with some waiting as much as eight months before they’re able to have surgery performed on them.
Whether the island’s health minister will be true to their word is unknown, but it’s clear that cutbacks to healthcare are only making matters worse.