The NHS General Election – Why Politicians’ Wont Save the NHS
John is 40 years old. His marriage has broken up. He is still suffering from the mental stress of the breakup of his marriage. He has had to move out of his house. His elderly mother is chronically unwell and can’t manage at home as social services are struggling to arrange carers. He sees his children a few times a month. He is living in rented accommodation but still has to finance his own home. He attends to see his GP. There are no local mental health services in his area. He feels he has no future. He doesn’t know where to turn. Who will help people like John? Real people with real problems. Headlines from politicians such as ‘We will increase NHS spending’ means absolutely nothing to John.
On Thursday the 7th May 2015 there is a general election. All the parties are promising all sorts of miracles if you vote for them. This includes improving the NHS. They all have shiny new manifesto publications that they all seem to be proud of. However surely I can’t be the only person to be a little sceptical of their election promises? Will any of them make a real difference to the NHS? It’s like having a group of ‘minions’ look after a crate of bananas. There is a clear conflict of interests. Politics may have introduced the concept of the NHS but all of them collectively will destroy it.
The inherent nature of politics doesn’t lend itself to solving the NHS problem. Every 5 years when a new party is elected they try to put their own stamp on the NHS. This means that they reverse the decision of the previous government or implement their own policies even it means change for the sake of it so they can claim “Look what we have done”. Therefore this perpetuates a constant cycle of change with no consistency or clear long term goals. The parties challenge each other’s policies because they have to, even if they agree with them. It’s the selfish, self-serving nature of politics. Winning votes, popularity and power is all very well but it’s not going to cure the current NHS problems. Their true interest doesn’t lie in saving the NHS. They are interested only in giving off soundbites and passing the NHS from pillar to post.
This is why the true issues of the NHS cannot be solved by politicians. It’s easier to blame doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. It seems to win votes. You will never hear a politician talking about patients’ missing appointment, inappropriate consultations to A&E or taking some responsibility for your own health. Why? It is seen as a vote loser and political suicide to address the real issues, because anything that is seen as blaming some of the population who vote for them is a no go area for politicians. Therefore they dodge these questions at every opportunity.
All too often we see politicians posing for prearranged photos or public relations exercises in A&E and other health care settings. Then they keep using these visits in cringe worthy answers to questions such as “I was in such and such hospital last week”. How about politicians spend a week in NHS services on the ground – real visits to gain a real understanding of the pressures and difficulties we face and then address them. Not these vanity, preannounced visits with the media, all smiles, shaking hands with a few patients, as if they have gained some valuable insight into the NHS in a 1 hr ward tour. Why doesn’t the health minister for each party spend a day in hospital, GP practice, outpatient clinic A&E department? I am more than happy to have a MP shadow my working week.
I agree it is difficult to manage public finances especially when we as the public can’t see all the pressures of finances the country is in. But this isn’t a reason to lie to the public. A little honesty goes a long way. However we as the public also have to take some responsibility as sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth and are happy to vote for whoever makes the most outrageous promises even if it is not a viable solution. This creates a catch 22 situation. Tell the truth and risk losing votes or what the population wants to hear and win votes. So it perpetuates the lies. Sometimes unpopular decisions need to be taken for the greater good.
They all promise about protecting the NHS spending and ring fencing the budget. However this is lies. I see on the ground district nurses numbers cut, mental health services cut, phlebotomy services cut, IT facilities out of date, social services cut. If this is protecting the NHS then what would it be like if we had cuts.
I have no faith or confidence in any of the political parties to sort out the NHS. You have a choice between a party promising 8000 more GPs and guaranteed GP appointment within 48 hours; a party promising 7 day GP access, everyone over 75 having a same day appointment, a named GP for all; another party also promising 8000 more GPs and that wants to solve everything by kicking out immigrants; or a party north of the border who have cut NHS spending in real terms and want to break up the UK and lied about ‘a once in a generation referendum vote’. Neither of the parties has been transparent about how they will achieve their promises. So you are left with choosing between the last few sweets at the bottom of the quality street box. The ones no-one wants but you have to pick one as that’s all that’s left.
We want solutions please. Saying we are going to protect NHS funding, ring fencing funding, increased spending means nothing to me, and I’m sure it means nothing to the majority of the population. Stop bickering about the NHS, identify the problems, create solutions and then address them. If any party offered this they would have my vote. Choose carefully but don’t expect any of them to save the NHS or make it what we want it to be.