According to yesterday's press there appear to be at least two million people who are even now, two months after the lockdown was eased, required to wait for at least another 18 weeks for their treatment on the NHS.
Full disclosure: I am one of them. Indeed I might be three of them - it depends on what is being counted. If the figure is of the number of referrals, three are mine: for my failing sight, may failing hearing, and repair of a hernia developed at the start of the lockdown. In addition dental and and chiropody appointments made well before the lockdown were postponed for ages, but have now taken place.
If you think these demands on the NHS are excessive, just you wait until you are in your 80s: such needs are sadly par for the course. Indeed I feel fortunate that there is so little wrong with me.
The government likes to claim, even boast, that its policies in dealing with coronavirus have been successful becasue the NHS has not been "overwhelmed."
The truth is that the NHS has not so far been overwhelmed only because, at the height of the lockdown, it became a covid-19 service only: apart from emergencies the rest of us were shunted off on to waiting lists, where far too may of us still remain.
I still cannot understand why most if not all the coronavirus sufferers were not treated in the the Nightingale Hospitals, built so quickly with such acclaim but barely used, leaving the usual hospital service to carry on much as normal, though obviously with depleted staff.
Be that as it may, it is clear that the current backlog results not only from the way the pandemic has been handled but also a serious lack of capacity through underfunding, especially since 2010.
The following figures are taken from pages 223/4 of John Kampfner's very readable book: "Why the Germans do it Better " (Atlantic Books 2020).
Of hospital beds per 1000 population Germany has 8.2, France 7.2, the EU average is 5.2 and the UK a "lamentable 2. 7"
Of Doctors per 1000 population Germany has 4.1, The EU average is 3.5 and the UK has 2.8.
Of Nurses per 1000 population Germany has 13.8 and the UK 8.2.
Of Intensive care unit beds, at the onset of the pandemic Germany has 28 000 and the UK 4100.
Going to the doorway at 7pm on Thursdays and applauding the NHS is very nice but not sufficient. As an electorate we must learn to scorn the stupid promises that we can have Scandinavian (or German) levels of service with US tax rates.
Come the next election I hope at least some the parties will be honest and promise realistic funding for what is so clearly our national treasure.
And I hope all those clappers will rush out to vote for the parties with the most realistic proposals.
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