Comment

Susan Osborne: Shutting out the press keeps public in the dark about state of the NHS

Making the general public fully aware of the decline of the NHS would force the government to act, says Susan Osborne. 
AA_Gill_tile_Rex Features .jpg

Making the general public fully aware of the decline of the NHS would force the government to act, says Susan Osborne

In December last year, journalist AA Gill died from lung cancer. In his final column for the Sunday Times, he made two pertinent points about health care.

Firstly, that the UK has some of the worst cancer mortality rates in the world. And secondly, that the NHS is so resistant to press enquiries that adequately briefing the public about the health service is almost impossible.

Contrast this with the prison service, where the media is able to inform the public about overcrowding, unmet basic hygiene needs and the difficult working conditions of prison officers. It seems that as a result, the government

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Making the general public fully aware of the decline of the NHS would force the government to act, says Susan Osborne 


Journalist AA Gill, who recently died from lung cancer, said the NHS had been ‘resistant
to press enquiries’. Picture: Rex

In December last year, journalist AA Gill died from lung cancer. In his final column for the Sunday Times, he made two pertinent points about health care. 

Firstly, that the UK has some of the worst cancer mortality rates in the world. And secondly, that the NHS is so ‘resistant to press enquiries’ that adequately briefing the public about the health service is almost impossible. 

Contrast this with the prison service, where the media is able to inform the public about overcrowding, unmet basic hygiene needs and the difficult working conditions of prison officers. It seems that as a result, the government has invested £100 million and recruited an additional 2,500 prison officers.  

‘Compromised and underfunded’

In the prison service, the consequences of unsafe staffing could have been avoided if proper investment had been made a decade ago - an undeniable parallel with the NHS, which has already reached its tipping point. 

But this ‘gagging’ of the press means patients are ignorant about the state of the health service. It is no longer the best in the world but seriously compromised and underfunded, with many services in financial dire straits. 

Managers are focused on micro-managing targets and reducing staff skill mix to make ends meet, and as AA Gill experienced, life-saving drugs are not being funded. 

If the public was fully aware of the decline of the NHS, perhaps they would revolt like the prisoners. The government would then be forced to fund the NHS properly so it can provide the first class service it used to, not the third class service currently available.


About the author

Susan Osborne

 

 

 

Susan Osborne is chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance

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