A failing NHS or poor Government policy and decision-making?

One of our followers watched this debate this week. Within moments of watching the smug, opinionated Annabel Denham of the Institute of Economic Affairs we began tearing our hair out from the roots. Somewhat difficult for some of our more follicly challenged guys! 

No doubt NHS workers were too busy on the front-line, suffocating under the weight of their PPE, masked up, gloved-up and booted to listen to the insufferable Annabel who works for the right-wing think tank which is funded by anonymous donors. The very same think tank that was involved in a cash for questions row? Perhaps they will watch this if they are not too exhausted if, and when they ever get home! 

So the question is?

Q Is the National Health Service to blame for all our ills – or is it poor political decision-making by successive Governments? We will let you be the judge.

Staffing is an issue keeping NHS leaders awake at night. And just like ‘Your Waverley,’ it is the staffing budget which consumes a large part of its spending. In the case of the NHS – two thirds.  

For most NHS workers the last 11 months have been the most stressful of their careers. A horrible mixture of last-minute redeployment, understaffing, exhaustion, and facing a brand-new disease with initially few treatment options. They reached their limit months ago.

With barely any time to briefly recover, the second wave hit, seeing acute, general and intensive care beds fill up.

Well-being initiatives ebbed and flowed – with some trusts scrapping things (like free car parking and hot meals at night) only to bring them back again as the second peak emerged.

And the government’s hard-line on staff pay will not have helped to boost fading morale. In fact, we here at the WW have first-hand knowledge of senior staff who have just given up.

Although COVID hospital admissions have started to fall and 13 million people are now vaccinated, staff are still under immense pressure in all care settings. Any pressure from the centre to start recovering suspended services would be premature.

The public will, of course, be hopeful that normal service will resume from the spring, and fairly so, but this is not only dependent on hospital capacity but also staff recovery. It is perhaps easier to focus on available beds rather than the number of people able to staff them.

Commenting about staff well-being on Twitter, following a piece from NHS Providers’ Chris Hopson, chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital FT Sarah-Jane Marsh stressed:

“There can be no service recovery without people recovery.”

“In children’s services, people recovery means actually treating children again,” she added, highlighting how the impact of COVID has spread far beyond acute and intensive care.

With trusts making very positive sounds about their staff vaccination campaigns, they are right to be hopeful sickness rates will improve. But there is currently no vaccine for burn out.


Due to a change in rules, key workers are able to carry over four weeks’ leave into the next two years, and employers should ensure staff do this. Without giving staff a proper break the NHS risks losing its greatest asset.


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