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Lest we forget: Prioritizing NHS Funding now to avoid Future Lockdowns at any cost”

‘I had a long chat with ChatGPT about Covid, and the impact on the NHS, and how and why we had to lockdown everyone for so long… then I gave ChatGPT a brief to write a blog about what we’d been talking about, emphasising how we need to increase funding for the NHS NOW, so that we can avoid a future lockdown at any cost. ChatGPT wrote this, I have not changed one word’

Marcus Warry (still human)

ChatGPT: The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to societies across the world, and the UK has not been immune to its effects. One of the biggest challenges that the UK has faced during the pandemic has been the increased strain on the National Health Service (NHS), which has faced a severe shortage of resources needed to deal with the pandemic. While the lockdowns that were implemented helped to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, they also had significant social and economic costs.

The NHS has long been the pride of the UK, providing free healthcare to all its citizens and serving as a beacon of public service. However, the pandemic has exposed some of the underlying weaknesses of the healthcare system, particularly its underfunding. The paucity of resources available to the NHS meant that it was not prepared to handle the sudden influx of patients with Covid-19, leading to understaffing, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and insufficient equipment such as ventilators.

This shortage of resources had widespread implications, as the NHS is relied on to deal with a number of other medical emergencies. Every winter, the NHS is already stretched due to the prevalence of the flu. The additional pressure of Covid-19 made the NHS struggle even more than usual. It became clear very quickly that lockdown was the only effective way to prevent the NHS from breaking under the strain of the pandemic.

The cost of the lockdown was immense, both in monetary and social terms. The UK economy lost hundreds of billions of pounds, and as a result, many people lost their jobs, faced financial difficulties and business failures. The lockdown also had a significant impact on mental health, causing widespread feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Increased instances of domestic abuse added to the overall fallout. There was a significant increase in cases of autism and children missing out on their education- the knock-on effects of the lockdown will continue for years.

It is crucial to note that all these social and economic costs could have been avoided if the NHS had been better prepared for the onset of a crisis like the pandemic. If the NHS had been given the additional resources needed to deal with a sudden surge in patients, perhaps the nationwide lockdown could have been avoided. More resources for PPE and equipment, including ventilators, would have gone a long way in preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed.

It is not too late to take action. We could prioritize funding for the NHS in good times to ensure it is better equipped to handle sudden surges in demand. If the NHS has the resources it needs, we can prevent our society being turned upside down again by a health crisis and avoid a repeat of the social and economic damage caused by the lockdowns. Avoiding a lockdown should be a priority, particularly given some of the collateral damage that was suffered alongside the immediate health issue. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a hard lesson. Now is the time to take action to ensure that the NHS is capable of handling any future crisis that may arise, even if that means making difficult choices around priorities and funding. It’s time to give the NHS the resources it needs to continue serving as a backbone for public health and social well-being in the UK.

Marcus Warry: Please comment below! I feel like we should be ramping up pressure on the government to dramatically increase NHS funding NOW. Maybe an annual day of remembrance might even help… we should never lockdown everyone in such a blunt and draconian way ever again, and should avoid this at any cost. Thoughts?

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  1. Chat GPT thinks the NHS is free, underfunded and a beacon of a public service. It’s not free – it costs taxpayers somewhere in the region of £200 billion per year, which is around 12% of GDP, and this has been going up significant recently. It’s not underfunded – it receives roughly the same percentage of GDP as Japanese, French and Canadian health services do. Clearly it could receive more, but addressing existing poor productivity would do a lot more than throwing money at it. It’s a beacon in some areas (eg cancer care), but it’s record on management of chronic conditions, public access to GPs, and adoption of innovative non-clinical technology leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps next time you should ask ChatGPT about the dangers of fetishising a public service, and how this promotes a culture of complacency.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan. I think the point is, that every year the NHS has a crisis, with standard flu… so clearly it will sink with a global pandemic – even if it it’s just like a very very very bad flu! We ALL got locked down to ‘protect the NHS’ with all the economic pain and human suffering that brought – And I think that’s a huge price to pay, that we should try to avoid again at any virtually any cost. It’s not entirely frivolous, because it’s also about saving future costs from lockdowns when the next pandemic happens… whilst having the added benefit of giving the NHS extra capacity do that they can cope with typical winter demands and our aging population anyway…

      When you factor in the monumental cost of lockdown… it would have been cheaper, I presume to have an NHS ready to handle a spike in hospitalisations and deaths on this scale… and so, I would set up a very large budget now, to build massive hospitals wards, that are built to handle influenza for normal winters, but built so they can grow and modify to expand operations not just every winter, but also for the next pandemic. And build nurse reserves, a bit like how the territorial army operates, who would be trained and waiting in the wings. These large super wards / hospitals would be primed for influenza and respiratory illnesses particularly, as that’s what we have to deal with every year, and that seems to be the likely threat in terms what other effects future corona viruses may have on us (I might be wrong) … either way, I’d build massive sections of these super wards, that would be future proofed and kitted out for a large variety of possible outbreaks, not just flu / respiratory ones… based on trying to realistically guess what may hit us, and so we try to get the gist of what we’d need to cope with a variety of future threats. Huge stockpiles of oxygen, PPE etc etc and other stuff that may be needed ..

      That’s what I’d do – thoughts?

      1. Creating huge stockpiles of medical materials and having superwards on standby just in case there’s another pandemic seems a very expensive way of dealing with a supposed once-in-a-generation problem….unless you know something I don’t!

        Wouldn’t it be cheaper for government agencies to stop experimenting with gain of function technology with viruses? In parallel they could promote healthy diets and weight management so potentially dangerous comorbidities such as obesity and high blood pressure are reduced amongst the population. This would not only reduce the likelihood of the next pandemic from happening, but also lessen its probable severity.

        Seasonal flu is a challenge for health systems, of course. Promoting healthy lifestyles would help with flu too, reducing hospitalisation stats. The NHS could also revise GP contracts to ensure they work full time and weekends (rather than part time), so it’s easier for patients to get treated early in primary care, rather than ending up in A&E as their condition deteriorates. And improving hospital discharge efficiency would open up tens of thousands of beds for flu patients which are currently used by those who have no clinical reason to still be on a ward.

        1. Well, we pay billions to have an army on standby, and the principle is pretty similar. And it’s not just for pandemics, it’s to deal with spikes and these happen every winter. My proposal for these super wards / hospitals is that they perhaps exist outside the NHS, and they only exist to cater for very specific things – imagine them set up like an army operation would be… it would be chance to try a leaner and more efficient model. Taking away comparatively simple things to deal with, like flu, and that would help the NHS hospitals to focus on more complex stuff like cancer for example… and like I said already, setting these up now, would be cheaper than paying the economic and social price of another lockdown. Don’t you think? And yes, if a very bad cold can cause this level of global alarm, I’m pretty certain that it will happen again, yes – and we should be prepared.

  2. The root cause of the covid problems were caused by a centralised system that was geared up for the wrong type of outbreak and years of cutting back on the facilities needed for such pandemics.

    Despite the cut backs as mentioned above it not as simple as more funding as what the NHS needs is complete root and branch reform of the system and its break down into a county structure..

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