Sunday, 18 January 2015

UK migration and the NHS

I was in London for much of last week, looking after my parents - on Wednesday, my father (91) had an eye operation, the following day I had to take my mother (87) to the clinic. And while I was round, lots of shopping - in West Ealing, Hanwell, Greenford and Pitshanger Lane.

The main media topic in the UK in the second half of last week was the state of the National Health Service, less than four months before the General Election. (The outcome of this election will be utterly crucial for the future of Britain and Europe, but that'll be covered in subsequent posts).

Key to measuring the performance of the NHS is the time patients are waiting to be seen in Accident & Emergency (A&E) wards up and down the country. Guidelines state that 95% of patients must be seen within four hours of arriving at the hospital. England, Wales and Northern Ireland were measured and found wanting. In England, 89.8% of patients are seen within four hours; the figures for Wales are 81.0%; Northern Ireland 76.7%; while in Scotland - which has a 98% target, 93.5% of patients are seen within four hours.

The NHS has set up a local hospital tracker (link here - you will need to type in a UK postcode to make this work) so every UK citizen can see how their hospital is rated for waiting times, weekly attendance at A&E, emergency admissions at A&E, operations cancelled, and beds blocked. Really useful for seeing which hospitals are overcrowded and which ones offer first-class healthcare.

Anyway, the NHS I saw last week worked above and beyond my expectations - my father's operation took a little over an hour - he had a new lens fitted into his left eye. Thirty minutes after leaving the operating theatre, we were outside the hospital, waiting for a taxi to take us home. The following day, when the eyepatch came off, my father's sight through what used to be his weak eye was actually better than my strong eye when it came to reading. Once he has the other eye operated on, his eyesight will be near perfect. Miraculous! The work of skilled surgeons - all female, and none native English. The lead surgeon was Hong Kong Chinese; she was assisted at the table by two Polish doctors. The nursing staff were from India, Hong Kong and Poland - and were all excellent.

The following day, mother was seen by her GP, from India, in a timely and efficient manner. The clinic was run like clockwork - all the horror stories about the NHS in the British media seem to be relating to a different world.

It occurred to me that the NHS - for all its faults - is dependent on immigrant staff, without which it would collapse. According to the Health & Social Care Information Centre, 26% of doctors working in the NHS were born abroad, while 22% of all nursing staff that joined the NHS in the year to September 2014 were non-British.

With migration and the health service likely to be among the top issues concerning voters ahead of the May election, the electorate needs to appreciate just how critical to the survival of the NHS is its ability to recruit the best doctors, nurses and care staff from outside the UK.

Why is the UK unable to fill its own healthcare system with native Brits? Could it be that for today's generation of young people studying to be a doctor, or working around those pesky patients is too much like hard work?

This time two years ago:
Miserable depths of winter

This time four years ago:
From - a short story (Part 1)

This time five years ago:
A month until Lent starts

This time six years ago:
World's biggest airliner over Poland

This time seven years ago:
More pre-Lenten thoughts


Bob said...

Michael - what are the salary ranges for GP and other docs in the UK?

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Bob

Just read that average salary for a GP is around £64,000 p.a. with top range for self-employed GPs earning around £103,000. Several hundred top-earning GPs earned over £200,000.

GPs tend to earn more than specialists.

That average UK GP salary works out at around 30,000 zlotys a month. This compares to a Polish GP's salary of around 6,000 zlotys a month. Or five times less. A few years ago, it was seven times less. So there's some catching up going on.

When it comes to manual labour, the disproportion is only three-to-one.

Anonymous said...

Average GP slurry figure is meaningless. Many are stakeholders and earn considerably more, some owning more than one practice, lining their pockets at the expense of patients' needs, fobbing them off with cheapest drug and treatment options, often a pat on the head and a paracetamol. My wife had to go private to get a referral for a much-needed MRI scan. After five years of seeing her own doc with the same issue. And she works for the NHS. Why would they not do their best to sort her out to get her back on the front line there than see her on sick for months?

AndrzejK said...

Interestingly report today that anaesthetists (or however one spells the word) are in such short supply that Polish hospitals are paying 30,000 PLN per month!

I wonder how much proctologists earn?

Of course what would be interesting is statistics regarding the number of UK born medical students now and say 20 years ago. If it transpires that the medical schools favour foreign students (higher fees) that would be part of the answer as to why NHS has to recruit abroad.