The Sunday Post View: Our health service needs a prognosis for the long term

(Getty Images/iStock)
(Getty Images/iStock)

TWENTY minutes on hold when you phone for an ambulance…doctors and nurses rushed off their feet…hour upon hour waiting in A&E…GPs being paid a fortune to cover the festive period – welcome to the health service in winter 2017-18.

Yes, the service is facing unprecedented demand due to circumstances that are unsual in the extreme.

An outbreak of flu – described as among the worst of the last 50 years – and harsh weather have pushed the NHS, and its staff, to the limit.

And yes, our doctors and nurses deserve huge credit as they try to ensure those who need treatment get treatment.

NHS Winter crisis: An A & E doctor on a shift in the frontline

However, while the demand is unusual it does expose the fact that the service is just one step from crisis.

That is because no one in the last 20 years has been able to solve or plan for the difficulties created by our growing and ageing population.

In many ways we have become victims of our own successes.

More people are surviving cancer and more reach an age that previous generations could only dream of seeing.

999 Emergency: Lives at risk as desperate callers put on hold for 20 minutes

However, these victories come at a price. Previously life-ending medical conditions are being managed by our health services but that treatment requires cash and resources.

Therefore, it’s critical we get away from the sticking plaster approach used to treat our NHS and take a truly long-term view of how we safeguard and support this service.

That’s means all political parties agreeing a strategy for the next 25 years; one that will see the child of today into old age.

Then we must ensure those core principles are not changed even when a new political power comes into play. Health is far too important to be left to the vagaries of political posturing.