The launch of NHS Survival on Sunday 16 August served as an appropriate precursor to this week’s news that diabetes could supposedly bankrupt the NHS.
A non-profit umbrella group, NHS Survival want change. Co-chaired by Dan Furmedge and Stella Vig, they are calling for an Independent Royal Commission to investigate the NHS. The aim of the commission is to achieve communication between patients, politicians and professionals to form a sustainable NHS.
One day after the launch, a report from Diabetes UK revealed that rising rates of diabetes – specifically, a 60 per cent increase in 10 years – could “threaten to bankrupt the NHS”.
Diabetes.co.uk spoke to NHS Survival advisor and diabetologist Dr. Partha Kar about NHS Survival, Diabetes UK’s report, and what needs to be done to ensure the long-term security of the NHS.
Q. NHS Survival finally launched on Sunday 16 August, how long has work been going on to get the group live?
“It’s not been going on for a huge amount of time – it’s probably taken us around three or four weeks. We are trying to get more of the public involved, especially patients, and we’re slowly working on that.
“The way we are going with diabetes care, we’re entering an era where not all the patients are getting what they need. It’s a question of whether we are entering an era of privatisation or looking at funding properly.
“We’re just a group who felt that there was a political divide. While there are people who vote Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat, this is immaterial as we need to look at the NHS and where we are heading. Most of the debate is bogged down in politics.”
Q. What are the short-term and long-terms aims of NHS Survival?
“The short-term aim is very simple. There are loads of organisations out there: there are political parties, the NHS and the “#I’mInWorkJeremy” group.
“The problem is all of them are biased one way or the other. There are people saying that privatisation is evil, and there are those saying “Let’s get the Tories out”. In the short-term, we want to stop all that, because this is not getting us anywhere. We want the public and professionals to get together and say ‘Are we getting the best we can out of the NHS?’
“Regarding our longer-term aim, we want an Independent Royal Commission. We are sending letters to MPs and meeting all sorts of people in the media to make it happen. It’s vital that people support our view that we cannot crack this over the next 15-20 years unless we have this discussion now.”
Q. Which decisions do you think politicians have got particularly wrong about the NHS?
“Firstly, this is not about needing more money. Many organisations will say that it is, but we don’t know if thats all thats needed or better use of present resources.
“For example, let’s look at diabetes care. On Monday, it was reported that there is a diabetes ‘explosion’, but my view is that’s because we are not using the money we have properly. There’s talk about giving support and education to people among the high-risk groups, to prevent complications, but we aren’t necessarily seeing that.
“Instead, we are treating more and more complications rather than trying to prevent them. The response from the government should be: ‘Can we use all the money left in the pot left for diabetes care and know what we need to do. We know how we can improve care.’ But this isn’t happening.”
Q. Is diabetes actually likely to bankrupt the NHS? And how much of this week’s news is just over-exaggeration?
“We need to put these things in context. We have increased health checks, over-40 checks and there is better awareness of type 2 diabetes – people are coming forward to have their checks, and the fallout of that is that more people are being diagnosed.
“Let’s not forget the type 2 diagnostic criterion for diabetes has changed as well, compared to 10 years ago. We have also had an increase in the South Asian population, where the risks of type 2 diabetes are higher. All of that combined, there has certainly been an increase, but the language that has been used isn’t necessarily correct.
“So, how can diabetes bankrupt the NHS? We don’t even know what is being done with the money that the government has right now. I think it’s a false economy to say that the NHS will be bankrupted, because we don’t know what the government is doing. That’s what we need to try and get to the bottom of.”
Q. Do you think community organisations such as Diabetes.co.uk should be consulted about changes made to the NHS – especially if these decisions affect our audience?
“Totally, 100 per cent. At the moment, there are health care professionals, managers and politicians involved, but we need to look at all the people than can provide. At the moment, organisations such as Diabetes.co.uk are not being looked at. Take the Hypo Awareness Program, for example, why aren’t we looking at this and saying ‘This is a great way of doing it, let’s get it involved.’”