Monday, 10 December 2012

And........Breathe. Whilst the Government will still let you.

Yesterday I got into a very interesting discussion on Twitter with an NHS Respiratory Specialist. I was gently bemoaning the fact that Emphysema, in my humble opinion, doesn't seem to get as much research or study devoted to it as other more prominent lung conditions.  

He pointed out to me that all Lung disease is seen by the holders of the NHS purse strings (i.e. our 'Dear Leaders' in the Government) as a "poor relation". To evidence this he drew my attention to this article.

He'd followed it up with a wry 'not good'. And he wasn't joking. 

The government, as part of their self aggrandised NHS shake-up,  are intending to withdraw funding from April 2013 for all ten boards who had, in the words of the BBC, "driven clinical improvements" in the treatment and care of patients with resipiratory disease.

Yes, the Government have decided, in their not-so-infinite wisdom, to remove all support and funding for the 'Respiratory Improvement Programme' which was set up a mere two years ago.

And it doesn't seem likely it's due to austerity driven cut backs as the programme, according to the 1000 Doctors who signed a letter to the Head of the NHS Commissioning Board (Sir David Nicholson) expressing their "grave concern", during last week's British Thoracic Society's conference, was actually saving the NHS money.

So quite why they're pulling the plug is anyone's guess. 

But really, the reason is incidental, the fact they're even contemplating this is bad enough. Many of the Doctors and NHS staff who signed the BTS letter are worried about the impact this lack of financial "infrastructure" will have on those that will no doubt notice it the most: the patients.

As the Respiratory Specialist I was speaking with said, it's going to be very much a case of 'wait and see' for staff and patients alike, but I can't really imagine the outcome being all that positive, when the crucial financing, that made the current improvements in Respiratory care possible in the first place, is being withdrawn. 

Where do the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt, Sir David Nicholson, and Mssrs Cameron, Clegg and Osborne envisage the money's going to come from after April next year? It's not as if the already beleagured NHS can magic it up out of thin air and empty coffers.

As a respiratory patient who has been under the care of the NHS since moving back to this country in 1986, I genuinely have nothing but praise for them. Sure, there have been times when I've felt some of the Doctors didn't know what they were talking about, that I was left a little too often to simply 'get on with it', and have being frustrated that the Prescription Exemption list hasn't been updated since 1968, but, much like the relationship one might have with a  slightly irritating (at times) sibling, I still love it and will absolutely defend it to the hilt.

The fact that I have never had to wait more than a month for my respiratory appointments, the fact that I'm provided with Oxygen and a nebuliser free of charge, and the fact that I undergo rigorous lung function testing twice a year is something that I've never taken for granted. Ok, so I might not always relish blowing into a tube until I feel like I'm about to faint, having my lungs X-Rayed annually, or being pricked with yet more needles, but, as I say, the fact that this is all done on the NHS, without cost, is something that never ceases to amaze me. Quite honestly? Even the thought that this level of care might not exist past April next year enrages and terrifies me in equal measures.

This latest news is a double edged sword: anger for my fellow patients that they may very well see a reduction in levels of care and treatment, and anger for the dedicated Doctors, Nurses and clinical teams within respiratory medicine who will have a lack of financial resources and the possibility of reduced patient and research time to contend with along with everything else that the powers that be seem to throw at them.

Looks like another letter will be winging its way to my MP....

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