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In healthcare, hope can sometimes be the denial of reality!


MY father was the type of man who didn’t see a doctor. Working for the local oil refinery, he sometimes worked 24 hour shifts, or seven consecutive days. He was scared of very little in life, but he definitely wasn’t keen on people in white coats.

He’d gone to ‘night school’ for over a decade, working to improve his lot, to eventually hold the post of head of building sciences at our local technical college. His energy and drive in personal development, combined with his dislike of white coats, is what sealed his fate.

After finally seeking advice from a doctor, he confided in me that he felt something was wrong, but still wanted to take his students through the full academic year before seeking help. By the time summer came, he had a brain tumour that was too advanced to be treated.

The last 18 months of his life were text book terminal stages for a person with a brain tumour, with the anticipated end affecting our family for the next two or three decades.

What didn’t happen, was someone questioning the amount of pain relief he was purchasing before he finally saw a doctor. Addiction or need? If it is addiction, then steps should have been taken, if need, then he should have been signposted for further examination.

An informal environment with a healthcare professional working with him, may have convinced him to seek further help. It may have made a difference to his life expectancy and the quality of his life.

Twenty eight years after his death and his son serves on a local health and wellbeing board, currently dealing with swingeing reductions in expenditure on public health services. The impact on people’s lives is of clear concern and it is vitally important to the health of our nation that our services are invested in and developed.

The World Health Organisation says we spend less per head on healthcare than any other western European country. Comparison of any other healthcare system against our beloved NHS is always difficult, but it’s clear that our spending is very cost-effective before we take the current efficiency savings into account. We spent $3600 per person on healthcare, compared to $4864, $5093, $6145, and $5006 from France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany respectively.

The recent announcement which proposes a reduction in community pharmacies in England is naturally a concern for the profession and a real concern for patients. What will be the impact on the community pharmacy network? How will good pharmacies be identified and their ongoing success assured? How will pharmacies operating in smaller villages across the country manage to continue?

We are awaiting further information from the Westminster Government on the detail and how changes will be made effectively without a reduction in standards of care or patient experience.

Local reductions in drug and alcohol, smoking cessation, and weight management services reflect the additional efficiencies councils are required to make, with everyone knowing costs will rise in the future when more expensive interventions will be needed for those we must ignore, with potentially ongoing care provided for the rest of people’s lives. People who wanted to seek help, away from a formal healthcare environment.

Losing a family member is always difficult. Knowing someone is sick and in denial is a tragedy, but not having resources available to help those who want it should be a crime.

Charles Willis is head of public affairs at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Follow Charles @RPS_Stakeholder

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