Some seem to think doctors, nurses and paramedics working in urgent care spend their day saving lives.
And we do, sometimes.
But actually, we spend most of our day saving organs – brain, heart, kidneys, etc – to prevent disability so people can make the most out of life.
There are occasions when we have to intervene urgently or someone will die then and there.
Sepsis, for example, needs prompt attention and antibiotics.
Asthma attacks, major heart attacks, brain haemorrhages, etc.., are all examples of when access to emergency care saves life.
And it is hugely worrying that such access to life-saving interventions is much worse than it was 10 years ago, much much worse than 3 years ago, and much much much worse than even 6 months ago.
People are dying due to a lack of access. Of this, there is little doubt.
You can look at whatever metric you like…ambulance wait times, A&E wait times, time to admission, avoidable deaths, excess mortality…
The news is not good.
We are failing to provide urgent and emergency care.."the crisis in emergency medicine".
BUT, there is a more worrying (believe it or not) consequence of failing to properly resource healthcare services…
..which is that it Compromising the core aspect of our job: saving organs!
Most heart attacks don't lead to cardiac arrest.
All heart attacks lead to some heart injury. In the majority of cases, whether this injury leads to heart damage and how much damage and disability depends on the time to intervention.
"Time is heart"
The same applies to stroke. If a stroke is identified early enough (hours) then we have a treatment to break up the blood clot that causes most strokes. It is not a life saver as such (it is) it is more of an organ saver, a brain saver. It reduces how disabling a stroke will be.
And then for the next days and weeks, the clock is still ticking…find the cause and prevent further disabling strokes.
"Time is brain"
The examples go on and on, but you get the point.
People need access to the fantastic treatments that are on offer and that access needs to be timely!
Failing to provide access will have a mortality cost (people will die) but a much larger disability cost. Delayed return to normal life, work, higher dependency, etc…
"Saving a life" is not just about keeping someone alive, but also about giving them the best chance to enjoy a full and rich life.
It is the privilege of living in a rich country. We have enough collective money (taxes mainly) to get access to life-giving care.
This makes the current failure of the UK Government even more egregious. We pay for world-class healthcare, and while we pay less than many similar countries, we do pay enough to at the very least have access to urgent and semi-urgent (e.g. cancer) care.
Of course, the last 12 years have seen the NHS shrink further despite the demands increasing year on year and the cost of optimum treatment increasing.
This has been the Tory policy of not really believing in the NHS. And that is fine. That is the political ideology. I get it.
But to maintain such a position at a time when the public needed healthcare more than ever is unforgivable. And very damaging!
This was the time the public needed the government to put aside their own interests or beliefs and protect them.
Different if the private sector stood up during the pandemic.
We know lots of our pandemic money went to the private sector. And were they providing an alternative or significantly improving access to care, then fine…it's ideological preference with no harm to the population.
But the private sector had no hope of taking over from the NHS and providing that access. So the government's choice to put our pandemic crisis money into the private sector did harm the population. And now we have an under-resourced health service to tackle backlogs, Covid, LC,
So, this is awful leadership. Diverting public funds intended to fight a pandemic into a service they knew could not manage the NHS workload or pandemic patients is wilful negligence of biblical proportions. It is now becoming clear people died because the NHS was sidelined.
But it gets worse. Instead of now recognising the disaster occurring in healthcare and moving to correct it, Johnson's Government are doubling down…pushing even more money into the private sector and providing next to nothing for primary and urgent secondary care services.
Despite knowing people are dying and suffering more advanced disease (in turn adding to waiting lists), This Government REFUSE to do ANYTHING that may strengthen the NHS.
And yes, almost certainly because this would make it harder to privatise healthcare.
The crisis in healthcare is arguably a greater national emergency than Covid was in 2020. It is certainly putting the public at risk of, yes death, but a much higher risk of delayed recovery and disability.
And no, private healthcare cannot protect you here.
So, our job is to save organs, so you can make the most of your life.
But we do not have the resources to do that properly.
And the reason we don’t is that this Government are redirecting our tax money to bolster a private sector that can’t even help us out of this crisis.
Johnson and his government are not celebrating the diversion of tax money to the private sector because they know it is a very bad deal for patients.
Knowing about it and shouting about it can help stop it.