Dr Peach: The NHS is a political football
How will the NHS look at 100? Dr Chris Peach worked as a GP for 35 years. He talks to The Day about how the NHS has transformed in that time, and the massive challenges it now faces.
It took Dr Peach some time to take the plunge into medicine: “I had this idea that I didn’t like blood.”
Thirty-five years later, after a medical career that took him as far as the Bahamas and the Malaysian jungle, he has no regrets: “I’ve had a very rewarding life.”
As a General Practitioner (GP), Dr Peach was the first port of call for a whole community of patients. He retired in May, and is concerned about what the NHS has become.
“I don’t think the NHS can continue the way it is at the moment,” Dr Peach warns. He thinks that insufficient funding and “bed blocking” caused by an ageing population are serious issues.
But it is the transformation in GP services that he is most struck by. “In my youth we provided 24 hour cover to our patients, 365 days a year.”
That all changed in 2004 when the government confirmed a new contract which allowed doctors to forgo evening and weekend work.
“You are now unlikely to see the same GP often because the whole system has been fragmented,” he says.
Dr Peach claims we must build a system which encourages “individual personal relationships between doctors and patients.”
In terms of funding, he wants to see a percentage of GDP dedicated to health care: “At the moment it’s political football — each government comes up with its own crazy ideas of how to sort things out, and they are just as bad as each other.”
Nonetheless, a doctor’s life is one he would recommend to future generations: “It is a very rewarding career.”
How will the NHS look at 100?
“I’m hoping there will be a concept which preserves equanimity and access to health care for all people,” he says. “In a civilised society that’s what one wants. It’s going to be radically different. I really hope for the future generation of doctors that some phoenix arises from the ashes.”
- Would you consider a career as a doctor?
- Imagine you visit a hospital 100 years in the future. Write a list of all the different technologies you might expect to see. What diseases do you think will have been cured by then? What role will machines play in our care?
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“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”Hippocrates
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Q & A
- What do we know?
- According to 2016 figures released by the World Health Organisation, Britain’s public spending on health care accounted for 7.7% its GDP. This ranked it as the 6th highest spender out of 15 OECD nations.
- What do we not know?
- The precise impact that technology will have on GP services. Recently, a new range of apps are allowing certain patients to have appointments via video link.
- General Practitioner
- A doctor based in the community who treats patients with minor or chronic illnesses, and refers those with serious conditions to a hospital for secondary treatment.
- Gross Domestic Product — the total value of goods and services produced in a country over a year.
- Political football
- Theresa May recently announced an annual £20 billion cash injection for the NHS. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would spend more if he were in power.