Leading GP and NHS campaigner on general election: UK’s chance to save the NHS from a collapse that staff cannot hold off forever
In every general election the NHS is rightly one of the most important concerns of the British public. Although the Conservatives want to make this a single-issue election, the NHS will play a significant role in people’s mind when they cast their vote.
We need to make sure the NHS is not pushed to the margins in the coming general election campaign. It is an area in which there is a clear divide in the way the public perceives the parties – and holding the election in December only makes that divide into even sharper relief.
On 12 December, the election takes place at a time when NHS providers are reporting unprecedented deficits, general practice is on the brink of extinction and the social care system is in a real crisis. The failure to address the crisis in health and social care will in time define this government as much as any issue, or more.
“The NHS is at a breaking point, only not yet collapsing because of the sheer determination and good will of its workforce.“
This election is far more than a single-issue matter. Other issues are far more real to ordinary people – and health and social care more than most. Voters will have to decide which party will jockey them to the winning post but based on the Conservative record on the NHS, I will not bet on the Tories doing anything more than causing further damage through cuts, underfunding and more privatisation.
The NHS is at a breaking point, only not yet collapsing because of the sheer determination and good will of its workforce. NHS finances are as bad as in the 1980s and 1990s and overall productivity is falling. The NHS has already been seriously damaged by the Tory policies of the past decade. If this continues, England will have a completely different healthcare system in five years’ time – ‘NHS’ in name alone. Things will be much worse in terms of access, equity, health outcomes and cost.
The NHS will just be a logo; a once-cherished institution reduced from being the main provider of health services in England, with one of the biggest workforces in the world, to an increasingly fragmented, increasingly privatised service.
Today’s wounded NHS is now scarcely able to make the changes it needs to make. Because today’s NHS is on the wrong path, a fast track to fragmentation and marketisation.
But only if we continue to tolerate the ideological policies of Boris Johnson of commercialisation and privatisation in healthcare.
This election must not write a blank cheque on the future of the NHS – whose very existence is at stake. Another five years under Tory adminstration, starving the NHS of resources and the funding it needs, will reduce our health and social care services to a ‘third world’ service for poor people.
The government is deliberately setting up the NHS to fail, that’s clear. The whole agenda of the Tory party is to wash its hands of the NHS so that it can be ‘rescued’ by and for private interests. The biggest ‘smoking gun’ of this is that they are starving the NHS of the funding it needs so that eventually they will say that it’s unaffordable.
The endgame of the Tory plan is privatisation and the replacement of the NHS by a US-style social insurance system. This election is about redefining the future of the NHS.
The next six weeks are an unparalleled opportunity to reset the future of the NHS – and only Labour can save it for the people.
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