The NHS in crisis
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and never more so than in the last decade. Between 1998 and 2010 spending on the health service more than doubled in real terms, increasing at a rate of over 6 per cent a year; after the financial crisis of 2008, however, there has been a return to relative austerity following this time of plenty. While spending has continued to grow, it has increased by only 1.4 per cent a year.
Around the same time, a scandal in patient care came to light when the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was investigated over unexplained levels of patient mortality. There, it was estimated that between 400 and 1,200 patients had died due to poor care in the trust between 2005 and 2009, and a later inquiry laid the blame upon a failure of leadership, cost-cutting and a “chronic shortage of staff, particularly nursing staff.” Several nurses were disciplined.
That initial estimate, which was based on projections, has been hotly disputed, but subsequent inquiries reported a litany of failings and cases of neglect: misdiagnoses; dirty wards; patients left unwashed, unfed and unable to use the toilet. The scandal had a serious effect on public trust, and the name ‘Mid Staffs’ has since become synonymous with state healthcare at its very worst.