(p. A1) As it turns 75 this month, the N.H.S., a proud symbol of Britain’s welfare state, is in the deepest crisis of its history: flooded by aging, enfeebled patients; starved of investment in equipment and facilities; and understaffed by doctors and nurses, many of whom are so burned out that they are either (p. A6) joining strikes or leaving for jobs abroad.
Interviews over three months with doctors, nurses, patients, hospital administrators and medical analysts depict a system so profoundly troubled that some experts warn that the health service is at risk of collapse.
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(p. A6) More than 7.4 million people in England are waiting for medical procedures, everything from hip replacements to cancer surgery. That is up from 4.1 million before the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.
Mortality data, exacerbated by long wait times, paints a bleak picture. In 2022, the number of excess deaths rose to one of the highest levels in the last 50 years, and those numbers have kept rising, even as the pandemic has ebbed.
In the first quarter of 2023, more than half of excess deaths — that is, deaths above the five-year average mortality rate, before the pandemic — were caused by something other than Covid-19. Cardiovascular-related fatalities, which can be linked to delays in treatment, were up particularly sharply, according to Stuart McDonald, an expert on mortality data at LCP, a London-based pension and investment advisory firm.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 16, 2023, and has the title “A National Treasure, Tarnished: Can Britain Fix Its Health Service?”)