Private Business Intermediaries

Dr Foster 2012 hospital report: NHS at breaking point

05/12/2012 | By Peter Walker
The Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2012 reports occupancy rates at many NHS hospitals can reach 100%, with the average mid-week occupancy in the NHS is 88%  yet for much of the year most NHS hospitals are experiencing occupancy rates over 90%, we discuss what this may mean for your care. 
There are plenty of free beds in the NHS, it’s a shame they may well be hundreds of miles away, when you need one there and then, and the CEO of your local hospital trust (often now a local group of hospitals) has wards closed to save themselves from government fines for overspending. We have one of the best health care systems anywhere in the world. The NHS does the most amazing job considering how much we spend per head on healthcare.  What keeps the NHS afloat is the staff that give 'above and beyond' to ensure we get the care we need. However, things are changing,  the NHS has managed so far, but now staff posts and budgets are being squeezed, the make do and mend attitude is starting to fall apart, as David Behan CEO CQC said in the telegraph last week 'in places that were struggling where the unacceptable becomes the norm'.  
Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, has been widely reported describing poor care as a "betrayal" of nursing and other related professions. There is poor care, sometimes very poor (in the NHS). As someone who works in both the private sector as a consultant,  the front line NHS and medical charities,  I see both sides. In the NHS there is often a real struggle to find a desperately needed  bed, and that can delay treatment and cause a great deal of distress, people do die waiting for an ITU bed or during transfer. Still the emergency service provided is generally very good, and is all the better for the new Trauma & Heart specialist hospitals pioneered by Dr Fiona Moore in London. 
The private sector is starting to feel like a world apart from the NHS,  the nurse to patient ratios allow superb levels of care, in private rooms with virtually no MRSA/ C Diff issues.  Having the consultant not only direct, but actually undertake the care themselves is another reason why the care provided in the private is often different, some would argue better.  Though the private sector does not have to cope with emergency admissions or fight for scanner and operating theatre time with the Emergency Department. 
If you or a relative have been on a ward in an NHS hospital recently,  the picture of full beds, with really sick people being cared for by over stretched, sometimes overwhelmed staff, may be familiar.
Yet we can do something about it, health insurance, once only for the rich, is now within the reach of many, with new insurance companies innovating to pay cash sums when NHS treatment is chosen as an incentive to keep cover costs down, whilst paying for private care if the NHS is not able to offer you what you need. 
Over the next few years the boundary between private & NHS care will blur, already we have private companies operating NHS hospitals and NHS operations taking place in private hospitals. The question is are we prepared to pay to support the care of our elderly population and fund the advances in medical treatments that keep us in good health for far longer? 
As winter pressures impact the NHS, I have a ‘plan B’ if my loved one needed to go in to hospital, that may be getting them to a Dr Foster top rated NHS hospital or getting the GP to do a private referral. 
The views expressed here are not the views of Freedom Health Net Ltd and are expressed in good faith by Peter Walker, who is a consultant.