An NHS under unsustainable pressure deserves a serious debate | Letters

Simon Jenkins takes aim at the wrong targets when decrying the problems facing the NHS (Here’s what my fantasy Labour party would look like, Opinion, 15 January). It is not GPs or hospital doctors who are holding back the NHS; their hard work means patients continue to receive high-quality care, including emergency care around the clock. Doctors want to do more, but they can do that only if they are given the resources, facilities and staff to do so. For example, a recent British Medical Association survey showed that seven out of 10 GPs felt their facilities were too small to provide extra services, even though GPs want to do more for their patients.

We also need to ensure that the resources we do have are used appropriately: is there really a widespread demand, as Simon Jenkins suggests, for routine GP appointments at 3am? Would the money not be better spent having more healthcare staff available in a range of disciplines in better facilities when patients are more likely to use them? Moreover, calling for people to declare their income when they need to see a GP or have an operation so they can pay means-tested charges would destroy the social solidarity the NHS is based on. There is little doubt that the NHS is under unsustainable pressure and, in a general election year, we need a serious debate, underpinned by the need for healthcare to be free at the point of use, about how we meet the challenges we are facing. Doctors want to be part of these solutions.
Dr Mark Porter
Chair of the British Medical Association’s council

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