By: Abdullah Kamran – The Hidden Struggles of Disabled Care: A Peek Behind the Curtains of the UK’s NHS(National Healthcare System) Crisis
The author is CEO at Abdcorp.co and works at Fiverr and Upwork.
Like the rumblings of an impending earthquake, the cracks in the UK’s healthcare system have long been felt by disabled individuals. Once a bastion of security and support, the NHS (National Healthcare System) now teeters on the brink of collapse, leaving those who need it most to face the devastating consequences. The foreshocks of this crisis have been felt for years, yet it is only now that the rest of society is beginning to grasp the magnitude of the disaster at hand.
Once a beacon of hope and support, the NHS now teeters on the brink of collapse, leaving millions of patients with long-term health conditions struggling to access primary healthcare. The ground has been shaking for years, yet only those who need it most have noticed.
For disabled individuals, the NHS is not just an emergency service but an engine they rely on to keep their day-to-day life running. The chronic underfunding and neglect by Conservative governments over the past decade has led to a disintegration of acute care in A&E, with delayed consultant appointments, year-long clinic waiting lists, and slashed community care.
Mental health bed shortages have left young people needing to attempt suicide several times before being able to access an inpatient unit. Record delays in cancer treatment have left patients facing lethal waits, with thousands of people with neurological conditions waiting up to two years to even see a consultant.
I have spoken to disabled individuals from England and Wales about their wait for care, and the stories are heart-wrenching. Julie, a 64-year-old former NHS nurse who now relies on a ventilator for 12 hours a day due to a severe breathing condition, has been without a local consultant for two and a half years. Katherine, 31, has been surviving on antibiotics for seven years due to constant infections and has been unable to access surgery for two cysts. Chris, 65, who had multiple sclerosis, passed away from a tumour in her bladder after being denied proper care and tests for years.
This is not just a matter of resources, but an institutional collapse traced directly to a decade of Conservative governments underfunding the NHS. The ground has been shaking for years, and it’s time for the rest of society to take notice.
For those with chronic, complex conditions, navigating the NHS can be a journey of ups and downs. On the one hand, we’ve seen the great care and skill of doctors and nurses, but on the other, we’ve also witnessed the harsh realities of poorly integrated services, limited research, and ableism. The pandemic brought these issues to the forefront, with do-not-resuscitate orders given to disabled people and controversial guidelines denying painkillers to chronic pain patients.
The idea that private healthcare is the answer to these problems, as suggested by former health secretary Sajid Javid’s call to charge for GP and A&E visits, is a bitter pill to swallow for those in need of regular care. The cost of a one-off appointment is already a struggle, but the thought of paying for consultants, physios, and therapists out of own pockets every few months is overwhelming. To make matters worse, people with pre-existing health conditions are often ineligible for private insurance, leaving those in desperate need of care with few options.
As Katherine, who has spent £5,000 on private treatments for UTIs, succinctly put it: “Disabled people have been shouting from the rooftops that the NHS is broken, but no one listened. Now, we’re paying the price.”
As the Labour party calls for “reform” of the NHS, the reality of the crisis at hand is far simpler than any political rhetoric. At the core of universal healthcare, there must be enough beds for the sick to rest in and enough medical professionals to treat them. It’s a basic necessity that we are alarmingly far from achieving.
With doctors pulling away from elective care to tend to overcrowded emergency rooms, waiting lists for chronic conditions continue to skyrocket. Last October, the number of long-term sick people reached a staggering 2.5 million, primarily due to a lack of NHS care. It’s a dire situation that, without a change in direction, will lead to an ever-sicker society where the healthcare system causes more harm than good.
The collapse of the NHS can take many forms, from patients declared dead on emergency room floors to the quiet tears of a young woman wracked with pain on her sofa. The latter may not make headlines, but the impact is just as devastating. The time for action is now before it’s too late.
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