Rebecca Coombes suggests that NHS staff and patients will have to cope with the “new normal” following the worst of the Covid pandemic and the previous deterioration in the UK’s healthcare provision (Surviving the new normal. BMJ 2022;379:o2633). Some mental health patients may welcome video calls instead of personal consultations and some families attending Great Ormond Street Hospital may be grateful for the increased clinical interaction resulting from more remote interactions. However, my recent experience as a retired surgeon and volunteer at a local cancer support charity tells a very different story.
Cancer treatment is undoubtedly of a very high standard but some people still learn their diagnosis of cancer by a telephone call from the hospital consultant or their GP. When they need more information before reaching the all important decision about treatment options and need a face to face discussion with the surgeon or oncologist that is not available. When they are concerned by side effects of therapy they do not understand or have not expected, a brief telephone call with a nurse specialist is the best on offer. And when the start of treatment is postponed at less than 24 hours notice with no explanation and only the promise of a letter with a new date is provided, confusion and anxiety increase and confidence in the NHS is undermined. If this is to be the “new norm” the new norm is not good enough and much more than “ministers’ attention” is urgently required.
Re: Surviving the new normal