Star comment: Changes within NHS welcome
A review of minor injury units is planned in Shropshire. According to health chiefs, they are underused and difficult to staff.
There is also a misconception among the public about how they should be used – more often than not, people visit too-busy accident and emergency units instead when it is not necessary to do so.
The review, therefore, is welcome because clearly the units are not working as intended. It should be part of the ongoing strategic review of all accident and emergency services in Shropshire. For the services that are presently provided could clearly be deployed more efficiently.
We no longer live in an age where we can expect the NHS to meet all of our wants in an age where demand continues to increase but where budgets are unable to keep pace.
Dr Simon Freeman, accountable officer at the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, says the review is not about ‘cutting services’.
As he puts it: “The NHS cannot cut services. What we have to do is to find ways of treating more patients with the money we have. It is more about efficiency than cost cutting.”
For our part, we must accept that we cannot have bespoke facilities in every town and village. What Shropshire and Mid Wales needs is an effective health system that is able to cater for the diverse needs of the vast area it serves.
The outcome of this review is not yet know. Or, as Dr Freeman puts it, “We have no pre-judgement”.
What is important is that the review is thorough and recognises the views and needs of patients. If we ultimately end up with a more effective means of meeting demand then all parties can reflect on a job well done. But experience tells us that this will be difficult to achieve, particularly in a region as diverse as ours.
All views and scenarios must be considered.
There is no doubt that the way in which the public uses the NHS puts it under unnecessary strain. And there is no doubt that by keeping appointments or notifying hospitals of cancellations, by not over-ordering drugs and leaving them in cupboards and by visiting the right type of hospital facility instead of always going to A&E, we, the public, can make a difference.
The NHS is one of our greatest achievements. Millions benefit from it each and every year. It saves lives every hour of every day of every year. It needs our help to adapt to modern demands: we must also step up to the plate.