Each visit to the U.K. brings new horror stories about the National Health Service (NHS).
Last month, Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, issued a forensic report, commissioned by the government, which found that 14 underperforming hospitals in England had substandard care, contributing to the needless deaths of nearly 13,000 people since 2005. Earlier this year, it was reported that a single hospital in Staffordshire recorded 1,400 "excess" deaths.
Following the July report, letters from patients and relatives of those who died flooded in to newspapers, Sky News and the BBC. Many confirmed poor treatment, if in fact they or their loved ones were able to receive timely care at all. The lack of adequate nursing staff, cuts to elder care budgets and a rise in immigrant populations are a few of the factors that have exacerbated the problem.
One letter from Grace Nutt to the Sky News web page is typical: "I am not surprised at the report at all. In fact the scandal has been going on for longer than the (period from) 2005 the report covers. My daughter was stillborn at Basildon Hospital in 1986. I was ten days overdue and very, very big, and in a lot of distress but was told go home and come back tomorrow; we don't have enough beds. During the night my daughter died. The nurse even told me she could hear the heartbeat the following day. I told her she couldn't and it was confirmed by the doctor. The lack of care has been going on for much longer than stated. I am distressed that I did not at the time take the case further and sue, but it's too late now. I hope everyone in similar circumstances makes them pay. D--n you Basildon Hospital."
Waiting times for many surgeries in the U.K. are notoriously long, but recently have grown longer. The Huffington Post UK reports that, according to the NHS's own data, close to 3 million people "were waiting to begin NHS treatment at the end of June, following a referral by their GP." That represents an increase of 240,000 people from the same month last year. The NHS target for treatment following a referral is 18 weeks. The data show 91.7 percent of patients are "seen" within 18 weeks, but being seen and getting surgery or treatment are not the same. After the first appointment, patients often get in another line. Some wait additional weeks or months until a surgeon becomes available. Some die while waiting.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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