We’ve had a triple-whammy of bad news about the state of the NHS in Ipswich.
Ipswich Hospital announced that its budget shortfall was £21.7m in the last financial year.
The four hour waiting target for A&E treatment at the hospital was broken yet again.
And two surgeries in Ipswich have applied to stop taking new patients because of a shortage in GPs.
This is bad enough but what has really disturbed me is how this news is being presented.
We have become so used to bad news about the NHS that things which would have once been regarded as shocking are now regarded as almost normal or even good news.
So the A&E waiting times which would have been unacceptable even a couple of years ago are now regarded as almost something to celebrate because Ipswich hospital - while still missing the target - is doing relatively much better than most other hospitals.
The truly appalling figures for Colchester, where one out of every five A&E patients have to wait more than four hours, are disguised by giving a regional figure and trumpeting that this is better than the national average. We are told to marvel at the 50,000 patients who have been treated on time while ignoring the 7,000 who weren’t.
Two years ago, when Ipswich Hospital’s deficit was £3.4m this was regarded as so bad that it was referred to the Health Secretary.
The plan was for the hospital to break even this year. I would imagine that the management of the hospital would have been over the moon if they had managed to bring in a deficit of “only” £3.4m.
But, because other hospitals have even worse financial problems, a deficit almost seven times what was regarded as unacceptable a couple of years ago now goes almost without comment.
It’s the crisis in GP care that I find most worrying though.
Let’s be clear - this isn’t new. It has been building for some time.
It was something that Labour highlighted again and again in the General Election last year. During the campaign I met many people who struggled to get a GP appointment in a timely manner. If you wanted an appointment to see a specific GP then you could forget it.
But what is new is the advice from doctors: “We … urge patients to use primary care services appropriately. Your help, by looking after you and your family and choosing self-care first, is vital. [Make] sure you’ve done everything for yourself, before you call your GP practice …”.
For years we’ve been aware of the pressures on A&E services. The advice we’e always had was: don’t go to A&E unless it’s absolutely necessary. If it’s not an emergency then go to your GP instead.
Now we are being told that GPs can’t cope either. We shouldn't go to them, we have to look after ourselves.
This is how low the NHS has sunk after six years of the Tories in charge.
After six years of cuts, underinvestment, costly and pointless reorganisations, forced privatisations and unnecessary disputes with dedicated staff this is the message from the Tories’ NHS: don’t come to us, you’re on your own.