Thousands of patients have died needlessly because doctors and the public are too reluctant to accept that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) needs to change, according to one of the country’s top doctors.
Keith Willett, national director for acute episodes of care at NHS England, added that lives are still being lost due to “inertia” in centralising and moving services.
The Times reports that new figures released today show that centralising care for the most seriously injured patients has cut death rates by 30 percent since 2012 in 25 “major trauma centres”, thus saving the lives of hundreds of people a year involved in car crashes, serious accidents and assaults.
Yet this centralising was first proposed in 1988, meaning it took 24 years for the changes to happen.
Professor Willett said: “Society needs to ask itself a question — why is it we take 20 years to implement something like this, which has been very damaging? We are much more conservative in changing health than we are in changing other sectors or technology. People are very reluctant to accept that medicine is changing all the time.”
He added that this failure to act sooner has cost thousands of lives, especially of younger people who are more affected by trauma.
Adding that healthcare can learn from change in mobile technology, Professor Willett said: “There is a significant degree of inertia, actively and passively, within the healthcare professions and within the structures that we have to change. With other technologies we make those changes much more readily.”
The NHS is a form of socialised healthcare that has been in place in Britain since 1948. Despite evidence of high death rates and a series of scandals, observers have described it as a “national religion”, such is the reverence for it, especially among the left, making reform incredibly difficult.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, will today say that the successful reorganisation of major trauma centres should be a model for the rest of the system.
“The NHS of the future will be one where more support for frail older patients is provided locally, but where for really major conditions, patients get quick access to centres of excellence. We need both, not either/or,” he will say.
“This reminds us that healthcare is constantly changing and the NHS needs to adapt with it. Sometimes we need to centralise in order to save lives, at other times we need to make services more local to meet the needs of patients.”