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Sick man of Europe: why the crisis-ridden NHS is falling apart


Other countries are looking on appalled as the UK’s failure to reform social care has left its health service struggling to survive.

There are blockages on the way in to the hospital, blockages inside them, and perhaps most frustrating for healthcare staff and patients, blockages getting those who have been treated and have recovered out of the front door and home, or into the community.

It is this last problem that is proving hardest to crack. Despite promises from successive UK prime ministers to mend the broken social care system, it remains completely dysfunctional.

This country is by no means unique in its health and social care struggles. Even in nations often held up as having model healthcare systems – such as France and Germany – the combined pressures caused by ageing populations, financial constraints, recruitment problems, Covid-19 and flu have taken their toll.

On the issue of social care, French doctors and experts admit to shortcomings, though not on the scale of those in the UK. “It’s not that we don’t have problems, but things are organised differently,” said Blanche Le Bihan, a professor at the French School of Public Health and researcher at the Arènes scientific research centre in Rennes specialising in social care.

“The system is far too fragmented, that’s the main issue with social care in France – communication, coordination are always complicated,” Le Bihan says. “But while it’s far from perfect, it’s not a major factor in hospitals’ current problems.”

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Source: The Guardian, 8 January 2023

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