The NHS is facing its worst-ever crisis, a Chiddingfold GP has said in a hard-hitting column for this newspaper – with staff suicides, nurses leaving the profession, healthcare workers departing the country, waiting times lengthening, ambulances backing up and patients dying in corridors.
Speaking out after seeing for himself the challenges facing the health service over the past decade, Dr Talha Sami highlights the eerie similarities between the current state of the NHS and the aftermath of the First World War, and notes that in the midst of global crisis, including war, pandemic and the rise of populism, the NHS is facing its own battle for survival.
Dr Sami has been working for ten years in the NHS. He is the author of the limited edition Take A Deep Breath: Diary of a Junior Doctor in the Covid Pandemic and Essential Guide to the RCA for the MRCGP. He is a frequent contributor to the BBC on medical affairs and recently became a partner at Chiddingfold Surgery.
He writes: "War on nearby shores, a pandemic, the rise of populism and the European identity crises are being re-visited. The same, eerie circumstances of 100 years ago after the First World War are being repeated. In the midst of all of this, the NHS is suffering from the worst crisis anybody can remember.
"Doctors committing suicide, nurses leaving the profession and healthcare staff leaving the country for sunnier climes is a tell-tale sign something is wrong among the staff. That’s just in case you missed that waiting times are longer, patients are dying in corridors or ambulances are backed up for hours.
"I have studied the creeping privatisation into the NHS of the cleaning services, ambulances, catering and now, more and more so, medical provision.
"We all support that people who want to go private, should. But the creeping privatisation is occurring at the cost of NHS services and engineered implosion by defunding, gradually gutting every viscera and limb of the NHS.
"Perhaps remembering where all this came from may be dearly needed: Aneurin Bevan of Atlee’s Labour Party worked tirelessly in the late 1940s to produce a health service that should be available to all.
"Those were utilitarian ideals all of us could get behind. In the past decade, the Tory party has overseen possibly the biggest de-funding campaign of our national services. The reality has been supporting them at the polls has meant not supporting the NHS.
"Now we have three prime ministers on the back benches. That is not a compliment. It serves as a stark reminder they failed to do their job and were ousted.
"New Labour is no better, may I add, with Starmer’s wild, wishful plans to re-invent the NHS looking disastrous from the off.
"It does not have to be like this. Other European countries have more doctors per person and a higher retention rate to boot; not to mention more equipment.
"Where does the difference lie? Where has that money gone?
"Could it have been that we have participated in unnecessary wars that have wasted trillions? Killed millions? Created worldwide chaos? Brought a refugee crisis to England where we started it all?
"Could it be in an abysmally thought-out Brexit plan? The Rwanda plan that even the Archbishop and King Charles spoke out against? Need I go on to list the catastrophe that has been the decade of austerity?
"When our leaders play their roles for their own personal benefits – whether that is selling Covid contracts to their mates or hosting boozy parties while we live through the pandemic or earning bucketloads from their private boards – we must say enough is enough."