The NHS- A Political Football

January 7, 2015

Our health, physical and mental, is one of the most important things in life. Everybody will sooner or later use one or the other form of health service. Our health services matter a great deal and it is therefore quite legitimate that the issue is being publically debated. But four months away from an election that is entirely unpredictable is probably not a good time for getting a sensible debate.
There are some facts that have to be repeated and repeated often: We live longer and better than any generation before us. Many more people than ever before are using our health services. Many more complex conditions are being diagnosed and treated. The NHS that was created two generation ago is outdated and redesigning it fit for the 21st century is proving very difficult. Additionally we do not have endless money to throw at it. And of course this coalition government is not the first to try and change things.
What really annoys me about the current attack by the Labour party is that many things that they are complaining about are direct results from what Labour did when they were in government. I was chair of our Health Overview and Scrutiny committee in 2009. We were campaigning very hard to keep our local A&E services open and predicted correctly what the consequences would be if the closures would went ahead. And of course we were right, but the changes were driven by the Labour government and – it is worth pointing out- supported by the medical profession. In 2009 I led the scrutiny of the wholly inadequate access to our local GPs, an ineffective appointment system and poor out- of- hours- services, which meant that many patients were abusing A&E services even then. Back then our committee was also shocked about the way elderly patients were discharged from hospital with no joined provision between social care and hospital services, which often meant that many patients were straight back into hospital after only a short time.
None of what is happening now is new. We should possibly all be alarmed that little progress has been made, but blaming the mounting pressure on the NHS on the present coalition government is simply dishonest. And why then should voters trust Labour with the NHS when the way they debate this serious issue is so blatantly partisan.


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