UK leader calls crisis meeting on struggling health system

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gathered government ministers, doctors and health service officials at 10 Downing St. on Saturday for talks aimed at resolving a health care crisis that has seen thousands of patients stranded in front of overwhelmed hospitals.
The government said it was “bringing together the best minds from the health and care sectors to help share knowledge and practical solutions”.
The opposition Labor Party called the rally a “chat room” and experts warned there was no silver bullet to the longstanding problems of the state-funded National Health Service.
Britain’s healthcare system is facing a hell of a strain, including growing demand for care after pandemic restrictions eased; a resurgence of influenza and other winter viruses after two years of confinement; and staff shortages due to the pandemic-induced burnout and post-Brexit drought of European workers in the UK
Thousands of hospital beds are occupied by people who are fit to be discharged but who have nowhere to go due to the lack of places for long-term care. Official figures show that last week only a third of patients ready to be discharged from a hospital in England actually left.
This has led to ambulances stuck outside hospitals with patients who cannot be admitted, and in turn to people with health emergencies waiting hours for ambulances to arrive. Health officials say the delays likely resulted in hundreds of deaths.
On top of that, a cost of living crisis fueled by soaring food and energy bills has left some health workers struggling to make ends meet. Nurses and paramedics staged walkouts, part of the country’s biggest wave of strikes in decades.
The pressures have renewed a long-running debate over how to fund and run the NHS, set up in 1948 to provide tax-funded free healthcare to all. As in other industrialized countries, longer life expectancies and aging populations have increased the demand for a widely appreciated but constantly overcrowded service. Britain’s NHS has long been a political hot potato. Opposition politicians accuse the Conservative Party, in power since 2010, of consistently underfunding the health service or seeking to stealthily privatize it.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the health service umbrella body, the NHS Confederation, said “this crisis has been going on for a decade or more”.
“High levels of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and rising levels of COVID exacerbate the problem, but the cause is decades of underinvestment in personnel, capital and the lack of a long-term solution to the problem. lack of capacity faced by social care,” he told me.
The government claims that health funding continues to increase in real terms. He says public sector workers are being offered pay rises, but he cannot afford to give raises to match inflation, which hit 11.1% in October.
Health union leaders are due to meet the government on Monday to try to end the strikes.
Britain is not the only country in Europe struggling to provide healthcare. French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday announced plans to overhaul France’s ailing healthcare system.

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