As 45,000 English junior doctors prepare to strike next week, the NHS emergency alarm bells are ringing louder than ever. Our NHS – a system like it almost unseen in many other nations – is undoubtedly one of the Labour Party’s and Britain’s greatest achievements with innumerable successes. But in this new age of illness and affliction, 21st century problems are fast changing the NHS’ direction, encroaching on a healthcare facility which truly does have the power to become a world leader once again.
The ‘jewel’ that is our National Health Service has seen unprecedented difficulties in recent decades, with obesity on the rise amongst the young, waiting times spanning aeons and shortages of hospital space. Needless to say, no one advocates for such a disparity. The NHS is beckoning for support more than ever before in order to keep up with demands of our modern society. The next generation of medical staff is imperative to dissipating disease in the future, and their needs simply cannot be ignored.
Junior doctors are utterly right to stage industrial action this Tuesday. After several years of demanding better working conditions and more substantial pay, both Conservative-led governments have hesitated to finally change doctors’ welfare. Having young medical professionals working for fiendishly long periods is not only unfair, but is the kind of behaviour that will plunge our NHS into lower depths of despair, creating chances of mishaps and the incapacity to cope with increasing demands. Moreover, a rewarding pay packet is key to securing enthusiastic and intelligent staff, ready to conquer the barriers to successful 21st century healthcare.
But this strike doesn’t only point to the conditions of junior doctors. Whilst our medics’ needs absolutely must be taken into account, it is a stark warning that the government’s NHS operation must change in many regards. Undoubtedly, the Chief Medical Officer’s alterations to alcohol consumption guidelines this week will reduce binge drinking across the nation, but other health problems still exist. Placing a strain on Britain’s healthcare provision are poor diet choices, for example, costing an estimated £6bn per annum. Taxes upon sugary snacks instead of the most deprived would not only place controls on exploitative companies, but boost spending and reduce the harmful consumption whose effects professionals must deal with ever more frequently. Tooth problems, diabetes epidemics and cardiovascular diseases are becoming increasingly widespread, due to NHS’ lack of support in aiming to rectify the health issues of our people. Tuesday’s strike should, of course, provoke a rethink over junior doctors, but also over the whole NHS and the harmful austerity to which it has had to succumb. Austerity is by no means the pathway to success for Britain’s Health Service. Shouldn’t reductions in such malicious lifestyle choices, and an increase in NHS funding be our priorities in striving to eradicate such substandard healthcare?
Yet still the Conservative Party’s hands remain unclean. Placing our prized NHS in the hands of Cameron’s governments has proven to be detrimental. Of course, when reducing a deficit as large as the United Kingdom’s, some form of cuts is necessary to economic rejuvenation. Undeniably, progress has been made. But public services are falling to their knees. Only modest spending cuts and health education will eradicate the problems of the NHS whilst keeping it as a credible public service. Austerity in UK healthcare is nothing less than highly damaging to both the provision of a service which we so heavily rely upon, and to the workers who serve such a vital institution.