In which Vicki Sigston looks at the consequences of funding cuts on one area of the NHS..
As an Antenatal Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor, I hear a lot of birth stories – home births, births in midwife or consultant led units. Vaginal and caesarean births. Inductions. Forceps. Babies born unexpectedly in cars and bathrooms. You name it, I’ve heard it.
I feel honoured to do this job and to be a tiny part of people’s journeys to parenthood but one thing I feel more and more uneasy about is the way our NHS is letting these parents down. Alongside the positive and heart warming birth stories I am hearing more and more worrying experiences.
I hear about problems with not enough midwives in the area leading to parents confused about who to contact with questions or feeling like they don’t have enough time to be heard as their midwife has too many clients to see during clinic. Sometimes parents tell me they don’t see the same midwife more than once throughout their whole pregnancy.
I hear about lack of staff on maternity wards meaning midwives and healthcare assistants are forced to look after too many women in labour at the same time.
I hear about cuts to budgets for anaesthetists and consultants meaning women giving birth on a weekend are left waiting hours for answers and in some cases waiting for urgent medical care.
I hear about Health Visiting Services losing staff faster than they can recruit them meaning that parents in desperate need for emotional support have nowhere to turn.
I hear of overworked GP services that lead to new parents waiting weeks for appointments at the time when they, and their babies are at their most vulnerable.
I hear of cuts in breastfeeding support. Cuts in Children’s Centres and Family services. Cut’s to staff at all levels.
Our maternity wards are at capacity.
Our GP surgeries are at capacity.
But why have there been these cuts? Why are our services struggling?
Because at a time when our NHS is facing unprecedented pressure from all sides – an aging population and increased costs to care for them, more obesity related illness than ever before, more babies being born than ever before – our government have not been funding the NHS sufficiently. The Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that “over the 10 years to 2020, the NHS budget across the UK will not have increased enough to keep pace with the ageing and growing population”.
I love our NHS. Medical care free at the point of need is something this country has done well for so long and something we should all be proud of and fight for.
But what I don’t love, what I’m not proud of, is the way our NHS has been stripped down year after year leaving what is at best a shell, and at worst a dangerous system with patient’s lives in danger.
I want to make it clear that this is not the fault of our front line staff – our healthcare professionals are fighting an uphill struggle. When I ask them what is going wrong and why they are struggling I hear the same things over and over again – our NHS has been chronically underfunded for years.
Over the past year we have heard that our Conservative government plan to give the NHS a boost in money – but this comes after 8 years of austerity where funding has been falling woefully short and so the “boost” in finances is coming into a broken system.
In January 2019 the National Audit Office (NAO) said that even if more funding does come in “there is a risk that the NHS will be unable to use the extra funding optimally because of staff shortages”.
It can’t just be a little extra money thrown at the problem, the government need to ask the people in the middle of the chaotic NHS – the nurses, doctors, midwives and carers what they really need. We need to get back to basics, our NHS, fully funded and front and centre as a public service.
I am sick and tired of hearing of parents and children being let down.
I don’t have the answers, as we head into the final weeks of this very fast and furious election campaign we are going to hear all sorts from all sides and it’s only going to get more confusing – but one thing I do know for sure is that under another Conservative government there’s unlikely to be any real change – they have had 10 years to improve things and it has just got worse and worse – not enough funding, more services privatised, longer waiting times for A&E and outpatient services – maybe it’s time for someone else to step in and see what they can do to get us back on track.
Vicki Sigston is an Antenatal Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor currently living in Medway. She and her husband have 2 boys that they home educate with support from Medway’s incredible home ed community. You can follow her work life on Facebook and Instagram.
Vicki has a website called Mum of 2 Boys that she likes to post (hopefully) useful bits and pieces on too. She also suffers with a chronic condition called Endometriosis and she shares her journey with all of that here.