The NHS set up by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee in 1948 has long been one of the truly great things about the UK. With other countries around the world who are reliant on private health insurers keen to establish a system like the NHS (America for one springs to mind), it’s worrying to see how the NHS is suffering from cuts and subtle privatisation. As a new Conservative government starts to initiate its five-year plans we wanted to see what some of its NHS plans are and what they might mean for migraine sufferers.
When it comes to developing new treatments the aim is to speed up their development and use as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) works to expand their assessment work on devices and equipment resulting in “rolling out high value innovations”. NHS England says that whilst maintaining the testing standards of safety required for approval “the average time it takes to translate a discovery into clinical practice is however often too slow…we are committed to accelerating the quicker adoption of cost-effective innovation.”
That being said, in the NHS budget last October David Cameron promised to “ring-fence” the NHS budget and “continue to invest more”. However healthcare campaigner Caroline Molloy has cited a recent study as evidence that “payments to hospitals for treatments have been cut by 10 percent across the board” and says that he is planning to be more reliant on “volunteers, ‘self-care’ and ‘care in the community’”.
Even the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was worried, as he said that even though government reforms of the NHS were saving £1.5bn a year the NHS “will need more money” but that the predicted annual shortfall of £30bn a year could be “reduced with efficiency changes”. What this means in real terms is even more stress heaped upon already over-worked and over-tired medical staff as current targets aim to make hospitals and GP surgeries open seven days a week by 2020 without spending more money.
To help achieve this vision of week-long care, and in an effort to help make the NHS more ‘stream-lined’ and cost-effective, the government is seeking to encourage the public that “pharmacies and on-line resources can help them deal with coughs, colds and other minor ailments”. But one negative effect of this is that anyone suffering from an ‘invisible illness’ like migraines may avoid going to the doctors and receiving the treatment they need for fear that they will be seen as wasting the doctors time. Those that do go for an appointment may end up with a doctor who is too tired and stressed from working extended hours to cover the lack of GPs needed for this seven-day plan. This would severely affect the quality of care and level of ongoing monitoring needed to best look after migrainers.
There are some positives and some negatives to the NHS plan, some changes look like they might be very helpful (if implemented successfully). For example, plans to incorporate greater transparency and communications between care providers via technology will hopefully help to reduce the number of times patients need to repeat themselves to the various different medical professionals who they need to see, and therefore help to negate the need to carry a complete medical history around in their heads with them. The big issues, as always seems to be the case, look set to continue to be lack of time, lack of money and lack of staff. Add these together and it might well be that unless your complaint can be simply tested for or is instantly recognisable, both things which migraine tends not to be, then migraines might easily be missed.
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