6 weeks ago, this blog covered the unprecedented A&E crisis in England and Northern Ireland (health is a devolved matter in Scotland and Wales) and showed that, far from being ‘desperate measures’ resulting from unforeseen demand – let alone the result of immigration – the ‘crisis’ is in fact the culmination of plans drawn up at least as far back as 2010.
Those plans – drawn up separately by the same consulting firm for both the English and Northern Irish NHS – mapped out cuts to workforce and services, reductions in bed numbers and the eventual introduction of charging for healthcare.
Figures now available for the NHS in Northern Ireland show the effect of these planned Tory predations on healthcare – and on the social care that has a direct impact on NHS provision.
The graphs arising from these figures make stark reading.
Almost 250,000 people are on waiting lists for their first appointment – out of a population of only 1.8 million as of the 2011 census – around 14% of the entire population. This number has very nearly doubled in just 6 years of Tory/Tory-led government:
The proportion of people waiting more than 4 hours – a key NHS measure – for Accident & Emergency (A&E) treatment has risen every year under the Tories. The levels in England have already increased hugely and look set to reach an increase of a staggering 545% compared to what the Tories inherited from the last Labour government.
The current level in Northern Ireland is the highest it has ever been.
Before the xenophobes jump in and blame demand from immigrants, the number of A&Es in Northern Ireland has reduced by 4 during this period – shrinking A&E capacity by 40,000.
Waiting for an ambulance
Late ambulances mean needless deaths. In Northern Ireland, barely half of emergency patients waiting for an ambulance will have one reach them within the mandated 8-minute period – a reduction of more than a quarter in 5 years:
If you live in Northern Ireland, your chances of receiving prompt emergency assistance when you need it is basically a coin-toss.
Northern Ireland has lost almost 1,000 – 12% – of its available hospital beds in the 6 years since the last Labour government – reducing annual patient capacity by 300,00o – again, out of a population of only 1.8 million.
Northern Ireland is experiencing a mental health catastrophe, with the rest of the UK not far behind – the Mental Health Foundation describes as ‘the largest burden of disease’, outstripping even cancer and heart disease.
Yet Northern Ireland has lost almost one third of its mental health beds and 4% of its mental health nurses.
The availability of residential care for older people is directly related to problems in hospitals. A shortage of safe residential care places for older people prevents timely discharge from hospital and the resulting ‘bed-blocking’ means other patients can’t enter hospital.
Residential care places for the elderly in Northern Ireland have dropped by 30% – doubtless as a result of the dramatic cuts in local government funding and government’s refusal to bundle healthcare and social care together.
Meals on wheels (coming off)
For those elderly patients lucky enough not to need residential care, help with hot meals can be an essential aid to independence. Meals on wheels provision in Northern Ireland has suffered budget cuts of 30% in 5 years.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then these pictures are painted by numbers. And the numbers – together with the fact that they arise out of planned depredation – add up to a simple fact.
You can never trust a Tory with the NHS.
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