Updated: Nov 27
By Sumaiyah Khaliq
The government’s statistics on A&E waiting times report that in January 2020, a total of 2,850 patients waited longer than 12 hours in A&E compared to an overwhelming 42,7000 patients in January 2023. The number of patients waiting longer than 12 hours increased by almost 15 times over a 3 year period. This shocking fact highlights the critical situation the NHS now faces. Investing in healthcare workers seems like the obvious choice to solve this problem but there are various factors to consider with this decision.
In hindsight, investing in healthcare workers would increase the rate at which patients are seen in A&E, hence reducing waiting times as well as pressure on current NHS workers. Overall, it would supplement the NHS and in turn, achieve better patient satisfaction. In terms of practicality, funding could be put into current UK training programs such as nursing and medical school; investments could also be put into promoting the UK to foreign healthcare professionals, by using financial incentives for example.
However, investing in other aspects of medical care may be more practical and make better economic sense. Investing in healthcare workers is a lengthy process and, depending on the required skills of needed workers, it may take years of investing in training programs for an eventual result of adequately increased capacity. Even when considering healthcare workers from abroad, there are compulsory conversion programs and examinations that could sometimes take years for individuals to achieve and successfully integrate themselves into the NHS. Additionally, bed spaces are the limiting factor in terms of admitting patients to certain wards from A&E, hence wouldn’t it make more sense to invest money into beds and more space to increase the capacity for patients?
There have been recent advances in digital healthcare have been made to allow wider accessibility of healthcare, predominantly through apps. This new and developing aspect of medicine looks promising in terms of reducing the burden the NHS is facing. In March 2022, the Digital Health Academy provided all NHS workers across England with access to a free CPD-accredited programme on digital health skills. While this programme is not mandatory training, it is available for those that wish to increase their skillset in terms of digital healthcare. It is conveniently flexible around busy jobs and allows a smooth transition to digital healthcare which, in no doubt, will be a substantial aspect of future healthcare (if interested please find a link for the training below). A BMJ article states that as NHS demand increases, modern technologies need to be utilised to maximise benefits hence NHS staff need to be digitally capable to make such advances. It is a widespread view that modern healthcare is shifting to the digital world to maximise use of staff, make healthcare more accessible and easier for staff and patients to use.
Investing in healthcare workers is a complicated decision and there are many aspects of the NHS to consider. It may not be the single most important factor to reduce the burden on the NHS and current NHS workers. Additionally, there would be a lag period between the investment in healthcare workers and the changes seen in the NHS and it is difficult to predict the length of this time. Personally, I think there are more favourable aspects of healthcare to focus on to achieve a swift improvement, particularly enhancing current technologies. However, it is clear that research needs to be conducted into financial investment in different aspects of the NHS to ease the heavy load current healthcare workers are facing. This would provide useful information for the government to help solve the current healthcare crisis.
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Sumaiyah Khaliq is a Medical Student at University of Leeds, and a Content Writer for the MedTech Foundation.