The Real Impact & Consequences of NHS Underfunding.

On Saturday, Save Southend NHS supporters took part in a national Fight For the NHS campaign day, holding a stall in Southend High St, handing out leaflets about the Mid & South Essex STP’s plans to reduce local NHS services and cut over £500 million from the projected growth in costs, and collecting signatures for our petition to Southend Council, urging them to reject these plans.

Save Southend NHS Supporters on Saturday in Southend High St .
Save Southend NHS Supporters on Saturday in Southend High St. © Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.

Whilst taking part I spoke to a Southend resident who told me her shocking story of how she and her son have been systematically failed by the restrictions in treatment and underfunding of the NHS  for nearly a decade now, and the terrible consequences of that; amongst other serious health problems, her son is now going blind as a result.

An appointment in January for this young man, that could have helped halt the progression of his blindness, has now been rescheduled for July as a result of the NHS Winter Crisis and the cancellation of 55,000 operations as well as the postponement of Consultant appointments. Prime Minister Theresa May recently had the temerity to state “that is part of the plan.”

Myself & Cllr Julie Gooding, collecting signatures and talking with passers-by.
Myself & Cllr Julie Gooding, collecting signatures and talking with passers-by. © Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.

I asked this lady if should would be willing to write her story down to highlight the Crisis the NHS is facing and the reality for people who make up these statistics. Over 4 million people have suffered delays in treatment due to this winter’s crisis alone – behind that statistic are 4 million stories of real lives that have been affected.

This is the shocking story I was told by that lady from Southend on Saturday:

“Almost 10 years ago, my son, at the age of 14, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Type 1 Diabetes. He has to test his blood sugar by finger pricks several times a day and inject insulin a minimum of 4 times a day. At first, he managed the condition as well as he could do with my support but it wasn’t too long before it became clear he was struggling with controlling his illness. As his mum, I could foresee the damage to his health this would cause so asked his consultant if he could be provided with an insulin pump which would give a greater chance of better controlled blood sugar levels but was told that, due to the cost of this type of treatment, it wouldn’t be possible. This is when I first learned of the great NHS postcode lottery – I know of other families in different parts of the country whose children were provided with this treatment as soon as they were diagnosed to give greater control of their blood sugars.

I put it to my son’s consultant that the cost to the NHS long term would be far greater in caring for him with diabetic complications than by providing him with an insulin pump whilst he was still relatively healthy but my argument was futile. Over the following years, my son’s struggles have got greater which has resulted in several ambulance call outs and my son being admitted into hospital with a life threatening complication called Diabetic Ketoacidosis as a result of persistent high blood sugars.

The damage that these episodes have caused is now very clear in complications that have been diagnosed in the last year or so – nerve damage to his legs, a crippling complication to the nerves that control the muscles of the stomach called gastroparesis and severe damage to his eyes called retinopathy and maculopathy for which he is now waiting on urgent laser surgery. The tragic thing now is that he has been told, due to the complications he is now suffering with, he meets the criteria to have an insulin pump!!

To us, this really does not make sense and things need to change. We estimate that, due to his struggles with his disease, this has cost the NHS approximately £15,000 extra which covers ambulance call outs, A&E costs, in patient costs, ophthalmology and gastroenterology consultant appointments. Now he qualifies for an insulin pump at an approximate cost of £2,000 – £3,000 with yearly consumable costs of approximately £1,000 – £2,000. This demonstrates that it would have made much more financial sense to the NHS to have provided insulin pump therapy to my son much sooner and, indeed, far more importantly, would have potentially avoided him contracting these devastating complications at such a young age. Due to the current situation the hospital has found itself in as a result of NHS cuts, his treatment is being further delayed as his Diabetes and Gastro consultant out patient appointments have been cancelled due to the consultants being needed on the wards.”

On several occasions in the last 10 years this lady has appealed to her MP, James Duddridge, for help in this matter only to be usually fobbed off or rebuffed, or as on the one occasion they met, to be quoted facts and figures at about Type 2 diabetes by him, an illness that has absolutely nothing to do with her son’s autoimmune condition.

This is just one story of how one family have had their situation worsened by the NHS Winter Crisis this year – there will be 1,000’s more in Mid & South Essex alone – next year it might be my family or your family that suffers like this as a consequence of chronic mismanagement and underfunding of the NHS.

The current plans of Mid & South Essex’s STP won’t solve any of these problems – in fact I, and many, many others believe it will make them worse.

It really is the time to Fight For the NHS!

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