The NHS funding squeeze must stop: A physiotherapist’s view
I have worked in the NHS for 19 years as a physiotherapist specializing in working with children.
There have been some good and bad changes over this period of time, but none have had such a negative impact as the past five years of spending cuts and so-called ‘efficiency savings’ that I, and many of my colleagues, feel will ruin the NHS.
I work in a department in a hospital where staff have left the NHS because they’ve had enough of not being able to treat patients to the standard they feel they deserve and need. The staff who leave are not replaced. Staffing was a major issue highlighted by physiotherapy staff in the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s 2015 submission to the Pay Review Body, and it has a huge impact on both the morale and stress of those of us who remain.
Staff shortages also mean we have less time for proper handover of patients to our colleagues in other parts of the NHS locally, or the social care system. And they too are over-stretched. So there’s a greater potential for things to be missed.
It’s an important part of our role as physiotherapy staff to try to get patients out of hospital quicker, into rehabilitation services in the community. But these services have also experienced budget-led cuts.
So, on the one hand, we discharge people early without feeling that we have done the best for our patients, and on the other we know full well that the rehab they should get elsewhere won’t actually happen.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As a physio I know that we can help with efficiency savings in the NHS and savings for the taxpayer more widely. We can do this by ensuring that patients reach their full potential. It’s what children I treat and millions of other patients want and deserve. It also allows them to contribute more to society, means they are less dependent on the state and reduces readmissions to an under-resourced NHS.
We can also save the NHS, the public and businesses money by helping prevent accidents and ill-health too, with initiatives to prevent falls among older people, with direct access to physiotherapy and through a greater role of allied health professionals in primary care, where GP shortages are at crisis point.
The funding and staffing squeeze must stop. The Government’s pledges to date are too little and the money will come too late. It must boost investment now in the NHS and its staff.