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NHS needs a serious funding settlement, not a political gimmick

Dr Kailash Chand

Dr Kailash Chand

There is an Indian proverb that says: ‘After eating 900 rats, the cat goes on a pilgrimage.’ That sums up precisely the £20 billion boost in NHS funding announced by the Prime Minister.

After the biggest financial squeeze in history over the past eight years, NHS England is to get a 3.4% yearly increase in funding over the next five years. This is significantly lower than the 4% annual increases most of the independent think tanks have said is needed as a minimum.

This £20 billion annual rise by 2023/24 will in no way repair the damage inflicted over the past decade. Primary and secondary care services are on their knees and NHS Trusts have record debts and waiting times.

Furthermore, Theresa May’s NHS spending boast has been fabricated as coming from some fictitious Brexit windfall. This talk of a Brexit dividend, which will supposedly help cover the £350 million pledge made by Boris Johnson during the EU referendum, is coming dangerously close to Ms May’s own version of a magic money tree. The Prime Minister is being publicly dishonest and playing politics in the hope of staying a little longer in Downing Street.

This a policy statement made to solve a political – not a practical – problem

Whilst all this is hitting the headlines, general practice and social care are quietly sliding down the ladder.

There is a deepening crisis in GP services. Since 2011, the proportion of unfilled GP advertised posts has climbed more than fivefold. We are in the midst of a GP recruitment crisis. A recent report from the House of Lords Select Committee on long-term sustainability of the NHS stated this is ‘set to leave a shortfall of 9,940 GPs across the UK by 2020’. NHS Digital figures reveal that the number of GP practices in England has fallen by 889 – or 11% – since 2010, as a result of closures or mergers; there are also 4,425 fewer staff working at GP practices today, compared with 2010.

Social services have been squeezed so substantially that the sector is now at tipping point. It is no surprise that the number of vulnerable people being helped by local authorities is rapidly decreasing, despite an increase in those who require support. A broken social service directly increases the workload of general practice.

After eight years of austerity, waiting lists have gone through the roof, general practice is in crisis, the NHS doesn’t have enough clinical staff, public health budgets have been cut and just four in 10 people with a mental health problem get any help at all.

The Prime Minister’s announcement is a policy statement made to solve a political – not a practical – problem. The Government should be raising funding by at least 4% a year, and concentrating on transforming the NHS from being a sickness service that diagnoses and treats into one that also promotes health and pre-empts sickness.

The NHS cannot survive without new social care funding and a substantial increase in primary care money to keep people out of hospital and free up beds. This NHS ‘birthday gift’ will prove a false dawn; it is just another political gimmick that will end in tears.

Dr Kailash Chand is a retired GP in Tameside

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Readers' comments (6)

  • Vinci Ho

    Everybody wants to be the PM?
    When a prime minister tells a lie and the truth simultaneously, he/she runs a risk of being torpedoed by potential usurpers. New NHS funding will come from both tax rise (something Tories always dislike) and so called Brexit dividend. This dividend is essentially a hallmark of a hard Brexit.
    Listening to what Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt said today (Sunday is always a good day of ‘slip of the tongue’ for politicians.), you can understand how humiliated the prime minister had been by this whole fiasco of Brexit (hard or soft).
    Fox talked like the de facto prime minister saying he did not ‘mind’ the so called transition period to be longer , although stressing that the official deadline of leaving EU as per Article 50 must not be shifted . This is in contrast to his other Brexiteer colleagues (Rees-Mogg, Johnson , Davis) but he also refused to say whether he would resign if things go south . He is clever and cunning and this is ,perhaps ,in response to 100,000 people out on the street yesterday rallying against a hard Brexit .
    In case of a leadership contest inside Tory party , Fox will most certainly not rule himself out. In fact , he might prove himself something different from the other Brexiteers who are evidently duplicitous , feckless or fatuous . The only interesting question is his view on this new money for NHS . But please remember he used to be one of us , a former GP and is still a FRCGP. Proud of our college!
    Then , we have our beloved health secretary, longest serving in history, who recently rediscovered his conscience. His admission that he was struggling to reach the target of 5000 more GPs by 2020 , his comment about how GMC handled Dr BG , hence , request of a review and arguably premature apology to those women neglected by a glitch on computerised recall system for breast cancer screening ; all were there to repaint his image as an ‘understanding’ health secretary.
    Today , he had to admit that the Brexit dividend is probably a hoax, though he pledged some loyalty to the PM saying some economists could be wrong .
    "I don't think we will have very much Brexit dividend - because we're paying the divorce bill." Hunt said .
    Well , if Fox is a hard version of an king-slayer , Hunt is certainly a softie . Worth to remind you , he is officially on leave camp as he declared in recent months and I am sure his wife of Chinese origin will be very keen to see him sitting next to President Xi in some summit meeting in the future .
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Of course , whenever there are rebels , there are die hard loyalist . Read this leading article in latest edition of NewStatesman by Nick Timothy

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/06/crisis-conservatism
    Who is he? Remember one of the two political aides of the prime minister in the general election exactly 12 months ago who had to honourably resign after the PM failed to establish a majority government.
    Personally , I think it is very well written article with a lot of soul-searching and introspection, though I cannot say I agree to everything he wrote .
    The crisis faced by the Conservative party is more about losing focus on domestic issues like NHS , Social Care , education , crime , list goes on while it allows an unjust civil war to continue under the heading of Brexit . Labour Party is of no exception , only the political devastation and desolation to the party is relatively less. The ambiguity of its stance created by its leader is inexcusable.
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Interestingly,I found myself agreeing with Nick Timothy when he wrote:
    As one senior Conservative said to me recently, “Labour governments fall when they run out of money. Tory governments fall when they run out of purpose.”
    ..............
    ‘’True philosophical conservatism teaches us to reflect a balance between individualism and social solidarity, between freedom and responsibility, and between capitalism and community. Conservatism should not be about selfish individualism or monetary reward, as its caricatures and critics suggest, but about our obligations to one another as members of the same community.’’
    The crisis of conservatism
    Nick Timothy
    NewStatesman
    20/7/2018
    Publishing this article in NewStatesman, largely centre to the left media , tells you that there is a ‘alliance with your lesser enemy to confront your main enemy ‘ (as evil Mao once put) between the Tory rebels and Labour ‘remain’ MPs.
    But beware , it appears that it is this alliance which is more than likely to talk about the domestic issues of this country which need very urgent attention.
    And of course , significantly , Paul Dacre announced that he will step down as Daily Mail editor in November this year . Many of us are more than happy to label this as good news. His successor was(is?) a ‘remainer’.
    For those representing us , my advice is keep very close eyes on this ever changing politics and keep politically sensitive; any politically imbecile and insensitive opinion will be exploited by politician from any camp.

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  • Vinci Ho

    You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
    Abraham Lincoln

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  • What Now?

    Hunt seems more interested in AIRBUS
    than his own remit as health secretary ...
    looks like he is eyeing up being business secretary in the next cabinet shuffle..

    Mr Hunt
    General Practice is in a very sorry state under your watch...
    Perhaps you are only doing your masters bidding??
    One day in the future whan you or your family have to use what is left
    perhaps you will think about it...
    of course it will be too late then ...

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  • What Now?

    It would be a befitting punishment for Jeremy to remain Health Secretary for another term
    so his chickens can come home to roost...
    Unfortunately we and the healthcare would certainly not survive..

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  • What Now?

    The Government seems to secretely hate the NHS
    People living too long
    Pensions black holes
    social care costs
    ..
    Think they would like everyone
    to just die..
    Hence dismantling the NHS

    Theresa May talikng about the brexit dividend mentioned it would be used to give the nhs a flush.... freudian slip.. they feel its is money flushed away (down the loo)

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  • What Now?

    MOD Minister Wants 20 billion or will bring down Theresa
    How much does the NHS need/want ?

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