There are many words you could use to describe the year in health and social care that was 2018, but uneventful probably wouldn’t be one of them. In good news – we might as well start with that because, well there isn’t too much of it, so it will be quick – the NHS turned 70 this year.
The 70th anniversary was undoubtedly accompanied by a degree of speculation about the future; about whether or not we will still have a national health service in another seven decades and what it will in that case look like. Not to mention how we’ll fund it.
Nevertheless, the anniversary was chiefly an occasion to celebrate the NHS, reflecting on what a huge step the 1948 creation of a comprehensive and completely free healthcare system really was and drawing attention to the fantastic work done by NHS staff on a daily basis.
In not such good news, the ongoing NHS funding crisis was never really off the health news agenda in 2018. While Theresa May in June announced an additional £20.5bn a year for health service until 2023/24, the consensus is that it will not be nearly enough to even sustain services at current level, let alone grow or improve them.
The winter of 2017/18 was found to be the worst on record for the NHS, with the BMA last month announcing that the knock-on effect of trusts’ lack of resources to cope with pressures during these months had turned the winter crisis into a year-round one.
In a Waiting for Godot-like scenario, the long-awaited and much-postponed social care green paper had, at the time of writing, yet to make its appearance.
Meanwhile, the equally talked about long-term plan is now said to not be making its appearance until January, as a result of the ongoing Government turmoil over Brexit.
Speaking of Brexit – about which everything is still up in the air and looking increasingly bleak – it’s clear that we are far from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the many potential and negative impacts on health and social care of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
An issue that will, of course, roll into to next year and beyond. Good to know that we’ve still got some of the fun stuff left for 2019.