NHS doctor begs people to ‘beg, steal or borrow’ to go private as health service at breaking point

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A senior NHS consultant is urging people to “beg, borrow or steal” to pay for private treatment because the health service is “on the brink of disaster”.

“From a safety point of view, my department is stretched beyond capacity. The same is true for almost every A&E in the UK at almost any given time,” Dr Emma Jones warned.

Every day she saw evidence in her hospital and beyond that the whole NHS, not just accident and emergency, is at breaking point, she said.

Analysis of the latest government figures suggests up to 500 people are dying every week in England because of the collapse of NHS emergency care.

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Dr Jones, an experienced casualty consultant in a hospital in the Midlands, writing under a pseudonym for Unherd.com, warned of “Armageddon” when demand rises in the autumn, given the strain departments are under in summer.

“Even as a senior employee and stalwart supporter of the NHS, my advice to patients is this: forget it. Beg, borrow or steal to go private instead,” she wrote.

She said after 25 years of specialising in A&E treatment, she could testify that a decade of austerity had eroded “every structure” supporting the health service.

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Ambulances are held up from attending emergency cases because they are forced to wait for so long outside hospitals because of bed shortages.

Waits are so bad that last week one patient reportedly waited 40 hours for an ambulance and another 87-year-old man waited 15 hours on the ground outside in the rain.

A million patients waited 12 hours in casualty between April last year and March this year, according to data from NHS Digital.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned of the “scale and depth of the crisis that urgent and emergency care is facing”.

Dr Jones wrote that overcrowding in A&E kills people through delays, errors, omissions and duplications – and it was unsustainable to run a system in major incident mode indefinitely while backlogs mounted.

End-of-life care summed up how “shameful” the situation is, she said, revealing that patients in hospitals up and down the UK who are about to die receive medication to ease discomfort, pain and nausea in their final hours, but not much more.

Instead of having beds on wards, they are dying in cubicles in casualty departments, she said, denied privacy and dignity, with loved ones allowed neither the time nor the space to grieve.

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“Imagine saying your last goodbyes to your mother, partner or child, while in the next cubicle a doctor is frantically trying to resuscitate a cardiac arrest patient. It is inhumane, uncivilised and entirely without dignity,” Dr Jones wrote.

She denied the Tories were preparing the NHS for privatisation, instead blaming the chaos on “incompetence, neglect and underinvestment”.

The public health crisis has arisen because senior management and civil servants routinely “gaslight” clinicians who flag up resourcing, bureaucracy and waste problems.

“Shoulders are shrugged” when doctors point out that countless lives are being lost because of systemic breakdown, she said.

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