There appears to be no shortage of opinion at the moment about the financial predicaments facing the NHS, with concerns being raised about its realistic life expectancy. Lead stories are grabbing the headlines on an almost daily basis. Take for example the BBC Health report prompted by a Nuffield Trust survey which concludes that there will be “a funding crisis this year or next”. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham describes “an NHS now heading rapidly in the wrong direction. It’s not just standards of patient care that are getting worse but NHS finances are in a dire state.” Health Minister Lord Howe’s response is that “These predictions are pessimistic and paint an unrealistic picture of how the NHS is working.” The political to and fro would appear to be never ending.
But where is the voice of the doctor in all of this political debate?
In late May of this year, a consultant surgeon, Dr Philippa Whitford who is originally from Ireland took the bold step of speaking out publicly, describing two possible futures for the NHS in Scotland and comparing this with likely developments in England. The youtube video of her speech has now received almost 40,000 views.
You may, or may not agree with Dr Whitford’s interpretation of the situation and the very act of speaking at a political event may be a bone of contention for some. What is beyond doubt however is that Dr Whitford has a good grasp on the increasingly divergent NHS systems in each of the four nations which make up the UK. She has taken this knowledge and used it to form a clear opinion.
The more we understand the systems which we work in, the more we understand what is changing and why. This also enables us to participate more constructively in any discussions with colleagues, to implement changes more effectively and to increase individual influence. For that reason, we have made changes to our Leadership and Management Courses to outline and discuss the differences of NHS in England, Scotland, N.Ireland and Wales. Many doctors are surprised by what they discover!