The NHS is changing before our eyes

Published: 04 December 2015 Ezine

This blog originally appeared on the TUC Stronger Unions website, it is written by an SoR member writing anonymously under the alias Colin.

Some things will always be the same.

Since I started in my role 8 years ago, the passion, dedication and commitment of my team of radiographers is, and always will be, strong.

The unwavering focus on high quality and compassionate care is a credit to themselves and the profession. Going the extra mile to accommodate extra lists, squeezing in emergency cases into full days, all done with a warm smile and professional approach.

However, some things do change. The dedication may be constant, but many things now feel very different.

The last few years, and especially the last 12 months, there has been a slow but very clear shift.

My hospital, a successful foundation Trust in London, is for the first time in deficit, without enough funding to cover its services.

It’s happening to most hospitals – 89% of hospital trusts are predicted to be in deficit by the end of the financial year. And, as a result, it seems from the shop floor that priorities have changed.

Previously the position of the Trust seemed to be high quality care, now it feels that cash is king.

Vacancies, both clinical and non-clinical, are now no longer filled.

Equipment which has come to the end of its working life is no longer replaced, thus denying our patients access to quicker diagnosis and an optimised radiation dose.

There are more short notice cancellations for patients due to breakdown, and it then falls to the hard-working and committed staff to explain to patients why their scan cannot be performed today, to the elderly and sick who have arrived only to be turned away through no-one’s fault… except the government.

Even though the health budget has supposedly been ‘ring fenced’, rising demand - fuelled by an ageing population with more complex health needs and new technologies - has seen unprecedented and sustained rises in activity.

There is only so much capacity which can be generated through staff commitment, and it feels like we are at breaking point – both in terms of ability to safely manage our workload but also staff morale.

Compounding this is the insulting stance taken by the Secretary of State for Health.

He insulted all healthcare professionals when he said that we won’t work weekends.

He insults us when he makes unfounded claims based on incorrect assumptions to try and score political points.

He insulted us when he refused even the 1% pay rise recommended by our independent pay review (whilst MPs received an 11% hike).

I fear for the future of the NHS, both for patients and my staff. Now is the time to act, before it is too late.