8 September 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: how would you go about tackling the NHS backlog?
Many people have been badly affected by the loss of NHS resources redirected to the pandemic. The social distancing requirements, the need to separate COVID from non-COVID patients (both spatially and in terms of staff) and the spectre of a second wave poses numerous challenges. There are, however, ways to tackle the backlog.
The move from face-to-face to online or phone appointments has been popular with patients, and half of outpatient appointments at Addenbrooke’s hospital are now undertaken “virtually”. GP appointments have moved in a similar direction. This approach meets social distancing requirements, saves in-person clinic spaces for those who will benefit, and removes any infection risk to patients or staff.
The 35,000 former NHS staff who volunteered to come back and help with the pandemic (a very generous gesture on their part) represent extensive experience and expertise, although not all were ultimately needed. But this shows that the government could offer an attractive, flexible, package to doctors and nurses to return to work for a 6-12 month period, provided it is well paid and supported and with adequate safety. This would help with the backlog, and also take pressure off healthcare workers on the front line, who face burnout if they remain overstretched.
Some procedures, such as surgery and endoscopy, could be carried out at weekends in unused hospital theatres. In addition, the NHS has, and still does, use local private hospitals for such purposes, but this should not become routine: the Green Party does not believe in a profit motive for healthcare.
Focus should be on providing sufficient resources for the NHS to run independently and meet future demands, including an aging population and even further pandemics. I believe the NHS should remain a nationalised service, fully funded by taxes and free at the point of entry.
Our response was written by Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley. Hannah is an NHS Doctor and Medical Research Council Researcher, and Co-Convener for Cambridge Green Party. She is undertaking speciality training in General Surgery.