The public would not tolerate it if their football teams had no substitutes. Why then should they tolerate NHS teams being down to the bare bones, asks pharmacist Peter Kelly…


Picture the scene. England are about to head off to the World Cup and the manager Gareth Southgate announces that they will be bringing a squad of 11 players.
They are going to do more with less. They have created a better, more efficient system of play. How would the country react?
There would be uproar. It would go down in history as the dumbest decision ever made in sport. People know 11 players won’t last and stay at peak fitness for the two months’ duration of the tournament. The players are not machines.
They are human and some will get ill, some injured and some tired. To build your team using the minimum amount of personnel possible is madness and will lead to certain defeat.
Throughout the NHS, health and social service teams are operating like a football team with no subs and the results are obvious. They are struggling. We need to build teams on the understanding that humans’ physical, emotional and mental strength fluctuates.
People get ill. People get tired. People get injured. If you strip the team down to the bare minimum you will lose.
Now we can never expect health and social care teams to be as well supported as football teams. The average wage in the Premier League is £50,000 a week and the average wage in the Championship is £25,000 a week.
The Premier League players are the famous ones who have a chance of making the national team. The Championship players are the ones who are not good enough to make the national team, players you might not have heard of.
But what if NHS teams were trying to operate not only without substitutes but also without a full 11. The Royal College of Nursing says there are 40,000 vacancies to be filled in England alone.
It is scandalous that we are trying to operate health and social care teams on diminished numbers. The public would not tolerate it of their football teams and we should not tolerate of our NHS teams. Teams without substitutes are teams set up to fail.
What about pharmacy? Are there pharmacy teams in the UK operating with too few players? Many employers say they cannot rule out staff cuts to survive the funding cuts. Is the government setting up our teams for failure?

Peter Kelly is a pharmacist based in London.