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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Liam Thorp

Our hospitals have become war zones and the government has no plan

It's not easy seeing something you love falling apart.

That's how many of us feel right now as we watch the horrifying scenes coming out of our beaten and broken National Health Service.

I've reported on problems facing the health service for a long time - and particularly during the pandemic - but in recent weeks it feels like things have reached a terrifying crescendo. A decade of mismanagement, an ever-growing and neglected social care crisis, an ageing population and a once in a generational and badly handled public health crisis have pushed us beyond breaking point and into the abyss.

During the pandemic I was constantly in touch with doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff who were putting themselves in danger and on the frontline of the war against covid every single day. I was able to report from inside an Intensive Care Unit and see these heroic people literally giving everything to keep people alive.

READ MORE: Crying woman asked family to 'let her die' as she endured 33 hour hospital wait

Many of them got ill, some of them remain ill, others lost friends and colleagues in the fight. It is heartbreaking and infuriating to see those same exhausted, battle-weary people now suffering in the eye of another storm.

When speaking to doctors and nurses in recent weeks, many of them have described the scenes in hospitals as like war zones - and they aren't exaggerating. They are completely overwhelmed, they are being forced to treat seriously sick and injured people in makeshift wards, on corridors, in cupboards - and it is breaking their hearts.

It says a lot about those working in our National Health Service that when asked about the unrelenting, all encompassing stress and pressure they are now faced with every single day - they think first of their patients. Every doctor, nurse or healthcare worker who has spoken to me in recent days and weeks has talked of the sadness and pain they feel that they cannot provide the right level of care to those arriving at their door. This is always their first and foremost thought.

One doctor said to me in recent days: "This just isn't healthcare anymore, it's not A&E, it's corridors and cupboards and it's heart-breaking." Like with many others I have spoken to, her voice was cracking as she spoke these words, cracking with a combination of sadness and anger. This is a job she loves, it is a calling she has dedicated her life to and it's slipping away.

It's hard to imagine what it must be like for doctors like this to see corridors full of vulnerable, sick and elderly people on trolleys, to know that despite a 92-year-old screaming in pain or even soiling themselves, there simply isn't the space to give them the dignity and care they need and deserve.

Long queues of ambulances are regularly seen outside hospitals (Liverpool Echo)

What it must be like for them to see queues of ambulances waiting outside their department with dangerously ill people being treated inside and to know there is nothing they can do to free up space and get them onto a ward.

It is equally hard to imagine how these same people must feel when they see the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary - for so long missing in action over this existential crisis - emerge to confidently say the system has what it needs.

One doctor said to me this week: "I don't know what the solution is, but it would be good if they at least tried something". No one is saying this is a quick fix - but it feels like this government would prefer to act like this crisis just doesn't really exist.

If Rishi Sunak and his team believe the NHS has the funding it needs to address the current issues, does this mean he accepts a scenario in which hospital staff feel like they are at war ever day? Where patients lie in agony on waiting room floors or in chaotic corridors for days on end? Where as many as 500 people are needlessly dying each week because of delays in emergency care? Does he really think this is a health system getting what it needs?

This is a crisis of the government's making. A decade of mismanagement has led us to this point and now they have no plans to do anything to address it. The Prime Minister made a vague comment yesterday about cutting waiting times but there is no detail about how he could do this. He won't even sit down with the Royal College of Nursing to discuss how to stop people leaving the profession in droves.

In that same speech, Mr Sunak said his big idea to start the new year is about teaching maths. I think those working in or experiencing the current crisis in our National Health Service would humbly suggest the numbers he should be focussing on right now are of those needlessly dying while waiting for emergency care in our dismantled National Health Service.


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