The NHS winter crisis has been difficult for both patients and staff, but it has also prompted a long overdue and necessary debate about the organization’s sustainability and future.
Some, such as former health secretary Sajid Javid, believe that charging patients who can afford it is the way forward for the free cradle-to-grave service.
Defenders of the NHS as a universal service, including former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, warn that this will result in a two-tier system that will fail the most vulnerable.
However, all parties agree that the NHS requires reform and cannot continue to be plagued by summer and winter crises.
The National Health Service was created to serve a very different population. People today live much longer lives as a result of scientific and medical advances.
However, living longer does not always imply being healthier, and an aging population, many of whom have complex comorbidities, poses significant challenges.
Professor Kiran Patel, chief medical officer at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, has advised on regional and national health planning.
“We could always argue that planning could have been better,” Prof Patel says.
“We’ve known for a long time that the population is aging. We know the public expects more, and we know that technology and digital health care are high on the list of priorities.”
The COVID outbreak has cast a long shadow over the NHS. We are still learning about the virus’s impact on our bodies.
We can already see the impact on patient waiting lists, which have now surpassed seven million.