Timely access to care is now the most pressing concern of people who live with ill health, disability or impairment, and what they talk to National Voices members about. Delays, waits, service disruptions and cancellations are now so widespread that it can seem difficult to find areas of healthcare that aren’t affected. It is important to also state that good, timely care is still going on in many places and for many people – but it is far less reliably so. Primary care, community services, mental health, so-called elective and specialist care and urgent and emergency services are all impacted – people can find it difficult or impossible to get the help and support they need in a timely way wherever they turn. The problem is now so systemic and far-reaching that it threatens the very fabric of the health system’s claim to being a ‘universal’ service. Without access, you don’t have anything else either: personalisation, quality, safety, assurance.
Rebuilding timely access to health and care needs to be top priority for all system leaders now. But it is no good trying to fix just one part of the system. A too narrow, politically driven focus on just one pressure point risks simply creating more problems elsewhere. You can only deploy your people once, and if you don’t have enough people, you cannot provide enough care. We need an approach that thinks about the whole system and its context and the whole person and their circumstances.
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