Dr Rinesh Parmar for The Times: letter in response to article “Health service is chaotic and dysfunctional, says NHS chief”

This morning a letter by Dr Rinesh Parmar of The Doctors’ Association UK was published in The Times in response to an article published last week entitled “Health service is chaotic and dysfunction, says NHS chief”. Whilst we all recognise areas in which the NHS can improve, stating that NHS staff have lost their vocation cannot be further from the everyday reality of frontline staff going the extra mile for patients. The letter can be found below in full and on The Times website.

Sir, I was horrified to read the comments of Lord Prior of Brampton, Chairman of NHS England published yesterday which suggested that NHS staff suffer from “learned helplessness” [Health service is chaotic and dysfunctional, says NHS chief Lord Prior of Brampton, 15th February]. As a key figure in NHS England he is charged with setting the direction and strategies which are followed. Attributing the difficulties that staff and patients face on a system which “at its heart is dysfunctional” does little to address wider concerns expressed by healthcare workers about resource allocation away from frontline services and the recruitment and retention of staff. His comments come as the NHS publishes its worst A&E four-hour target figures since records began in 2010. Utilising this stance to justify the scrapping of these targets doesn’t address the underlying causes for why targets are being missed and simply shifts focus away from problems that exist.

Lord Prior briefly addresses issues of morale in the NHS, giving anecdotal examples of junior doctors previously helping in A&E after their shifts. He fails to appreciate that doctors are often working beyond their shifts, covering the jobs of multiple doctors due to longstanding rota gaps and a shortage of 10,000 doctors. General Practitioners retiring after several years of NHS service do so for many reasons including worsening working conditions. To imply that NHS staff have lost their sense of vocation adds insult to injury when pressures in the NHS are being mitigated by the goodwill of dedicated NHS staff.