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Medicine Interviews – Current problems in the NHS

By Dr Emma Brierley
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When attending a Medicine interview, students need to be prepared to speak about a wide range of questions. A common topic is the NHS, and the challenges it faces.

Assessing the State of the NHS

The news have been flooded recently with articles discussing the current state of the NHS and the problems it is encountering at the moment. The current state has been referred to as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ by the Red Cross.

In Medicine interviews for undergraduate university applicants, it is very common that you will be required to show engagement with what’s happening in medicine in the news. With the 2017 election on the immediate horizon, it’s crucial to be politically aware. Your interviews may come later down the line, but admissions tutors will expect to see a long-term engagement with the policy decisions and current affairs surrounding the National Health Service.

So why do we keep hearing the NHS is at breaking point?

Here’s a quick round-up of the key problems usually cited by those arguing that the NHS is in crisis:

Increased demand.

More people are using its services – caused by many factors. One is that we have an ageing population. With advances in healthcare, more people are living longer lives which means there are more people who need the NHS. Elderly people have higher rates of chronic diseases and are more susceptible to acute infections such as norovirus and the flu meaning they require large amounts of NHS spending to support them.

Budget cuts.

Cuts in social care funding and district nurses are putting greater strains on the system. Patients who could previously have been cared for at home no longer have access to this means of care. This results in them ending up in hospitals unnecessarily. Also, once in hospital, it is difficult to discharge them as suitable accommodation and care have to be found. This leads to patients being stuck in a hospital ward, ‘blocking beds’ and being susceptible to hospital-acquired infections. Furthermore, resultant hospital closures and ward closures are leading to fewer beds available for sick patients.

Poor health choices.

Poor lifestyle choices are causing widespread disease. With increasing levels of obesity, smoking, and high alcohol intake, the general public is requiring more healthcare services leading to greater demand of the NHS.

Confused patients.

Confusion over which service to access. People often struggle to understand whether they should go to their GP, an Out of Hours service or Accident and Emergency. Also, with long waiting times at GP practices, people often go to A&E unnecessarily leaving A&E struggling to cope. There has also been negative publicity of the NHS 111 Helpline which has caused some people to bypass this and go straight to A&E.

Technological developements.

Expensive developments in Medicine and Surgery are a challenge to fund. New evolutions in health care are great for patients – providing options and hope for those who suffer from previously terminal or life-threatening conditions. These advances, however, require additional funding in an already overstretched NHS.

The above is a brief summary of a selection of problems facing the NHS at the moment. With so much stress on the system, many consider an additional factor to be the low morale of many doctors due to their increased workload and contract changes.

Top Tip: Consider Your View on the State of Healthcare

All medical universities want students who have a realistic understanding of the problems facing the NHS. They may want to hear your opinions on the problems and how you think the situation could be improved.

For example, if you were Secretary of State for Health for the day and had a certain amount of money to spend on healthcare, how would you spend it? How and why would you make this decision?