The political football has once again been taken out of touch and put back into play. “The Tories will privatise the NHS!” Labour privatised it first!” “UKIP will safeguard the NHS!” so it goes, on and on and on, the only goals scored being own goals!
Everyone knows that the NHS is unsustainable but such is its status and place in the psyche of Great Britain that no politician would dare touch it, let alone privatise it. To do so would be political suicide. Instead we have to annually find ways to fund this porous behemoth. From the outside looking in everyone can see that it is top-heavy. Which would be alright if the burgeoning bureaucracy at the top was efficient in carrying out its duties. Unfortunately they seem to think that it is their task in life to create more bureaucracy to regulate the ever expanding bureaucratic non-entity that they have created in the past!
It is unfair, however, to blame the bureaucrats put into place by incompetent, amateur government Ministers. The theme is similar for whichever political party is in power, the newly appointed Secretary for Health always has a ‘plan’, always sees where the problems lie and, most importantly, they have always “learned lessons.” Tellingly though, none of them have any medical experience nor medical expertise. Indeed, the vast majority of these ‘Secretaries’ have absolutely no experience of running any sort of organisation let alone a beast the size of the NHS!
They have no sense of time either. Take Blair’s ridiculous statement in 1997 that there was only 24 hours to save the NHS. Unless my maths are wrong, there are slightly more than 24 hours in three years, yet it took Labour until after 2000 to get a ‘plan’ together and even longer to inject the cash required to support said plan.
The scaremongering which abounds at every General Election concerning the NHS is now legend. Mostly coming from the Left and, I include the ever fading LibDems in this, we get everything from an NHS with only 24 hours to survive to complete privatisation should the Tories win the Election. All tripe of course! As I mentioned earlier, privatising the NHS would be political suicide but it hasn’t stopped any of the Parties, when in power, from shipping out services to the Private Sector. Surprise, surprise the hypocritical Labour Party have been the main culprits in this. By sleight of political hand they managed to sell out to the Private Sector whilst using the Tories as their sacrificial lamb.
In 1997 they Introduced Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ITC) run by private and independent sectors and contracted to provide key services such as surgical treatments and diagnostic and test services. It was also the year that they introduced the infamous PFI programme which is still weighing the NHS down with £millions of debt.
Dental services, Pharmacy services (prescriptions) and eyesight services, all free when the NHS was conceived have all been put out to the Private Sector, either whole or in part. Another legacy of Labour government. (note: paying for prescriptions was proposed by Labour – NHS Amendment Act 1949 – but implemented by Tories 1952)
Health is probably the one thing that is forefront in everyones mind. Using the NHS to gain votes is an easy though cheap shot! We are all grateful for a free at point of entry health service. If we are not, we should be. However let us not be blind to the fact that it is unsustainable. Unless someone can come up with a radical fully costed plan which still keeps to the original principals of the NHS but which is sustainable then I fear that year on, year on we will have to bear the burden of the ever expanding cost to the nation of this service.
Of course, the irony of the NHS being that it is not ‘free’ at all. The money found by the Treasury to support the running of the service is, by and large, borrowed money and like all government borrowing it is us, the taxpayer, who has to pay the debt back through various taxes and tariffs.
This will not stop the scaremongering though, So, over the next few weeks expect damning accusation from one side, passionate defence from the other. Within days the complete reverse and then the pledges will come thick and fast as to how much money will be ploughed in by each party. As if money alone is a cure-all for all that is wrong with the NHS.
I have no answer to the question of the NHS, if I did then I would be a very rich man. However, I do realise that this political soccer match, played out at every General Election, always ends in a draw!