Zara Aziz: The system is collapsing at an alarming rate

August is a month of contrasts. It is generally quiet for us at the surgery as some of our patients are students and mostly away over summer months, but it is a different story elsewhere.

Many parts of the health and social care come to a standstill over the summer. As if there are not enough rota gaps in the system, the doctors’ changeover also happens during this time. This is something that I have never been able to fathom.

This week has been a real struggle to get patients admitted into hospital and get timely discharge letters. I delegate as much as I can to our admin team but still spend significant portion of my day chasing correspondence and being on hold as the switchboard tries and fails to find people.

In surgery I listen to a patient who had been to an outpatient clinic the previous week where she was given reassurance that I will, by now, have her clinic letter detailing medication changes. The letter is not here. We all like to reassure and not quash expectations - and perhaps I am no better when I tell her that her letter will likely arrive by next week.

I send another patient with delirium to the hospital – there are no acute beds and she is given a trolley with some makeshift curtains outside the ward. It is safer than home but not by much.

The staff are spread thinly and working long and busy shifts. There is no vacant bed on a ward in site. Yet this is hardly surprising when we have seen (and continue to see) cuts in bed numbers. It makes for a precarious situation.

Over the years there has been no shortage of doom and gloom within the health service, but what was just talk then is now the stark reality for many patients, not just during periods of acute demand but all  year round. 

I feel sad and guilty that despite trying our utmost to work for and with our patients, it is the system which is collapsing at an alarming rate. Yet the government chooses to ignore the unprecedented demand on healthcare and continues to talk in censorious terms of overspending not under-funding.

  • Dr Aziz is a GP in Bristol

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