THESE are clearly testing times for the National Health Service as the annual winter beds crisis becomes an all-year phenomenon because of the care needs of a growing – and ageing – population.
This is borne out by the increase in the number of NHS staff in Yorkshire taking sick leave because of stress and anxiety – the reported rise since 2013 is such that it demands further explanation to see if it is out of kilter with absenteeism elsewhere and in other public services.
It should also be acknowledged that the rise could be attributed, in part, to increased awareness about mental health and an acceptance that the staff concerned are not letting down their patients, or colleagues, if they do take time off.
That said, the situation is not being helped by sustained staff shortages – rota gaps can only be plugged for so long – that are reflected by increased waiting times for A&E treatment.
Yet, while it will take time for a new generation of medical staff to be trained to the requisite standard, the Government could help in the meantime by making sure that more emphasis is placed on the needs of frontline workers who do, in fairness, feel under-valued.
In turn, patients can also be a supportive. Just two words – ‘thank you’ – can make a world of difference to a nurse or doctor’s day. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Equally, the NHS should not be afraid to defer or delay the treatment of any patient whose behaviour has been found to be intentionally abusive or threatening.
Just as it took a series of terrorist attacks, and the Grenfell Tower inferno, for the public to appreciate the work of the emergency services, the upcoming 70th anniversary of the NHS should be an opportunity for a nation to honour health workers. In doing so, it might boost the flagging morale of professions that should never be taken for granted by politicians or patients alike.