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Mr Osborne, stop using NHS cash as political capital

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A science teacher places a five-litre measuring cylinder filled with pebbles on the desk in front of his students.

‘Is this full?’, he asks the class. There are murmurs of yes and no and a few non-committal grunts. He takes a large beaker of gravel and tips it into the cylinder.

‘Is it full now?’ The students are quiet, sensing a trick question. He pulls out a beaker of sand and pours that into the top of the measuring cylinder.

‘How about now?’ he says. A few students nod.

He shakes his head and produces a beaker of water from under the bench.

‘There is still more space in this cylinder,’ he says, as he pours water into it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently announced that more cash is going to be poured into the NHS, inciting a mixed response from medical commentators, politicians, healthcare workers and the general public. No-one can agree whether he is try to fill large gaps with gravel, smaller gaps with sand or squeezing in a small amount of water.

Part of me realises that this money must come from somewhere and is either already in the health system in one form or another, or is being taken from another public service. After all, the last time I looked the deficit was not coming down. But for now, George Osborne has got the headlines that he wanted in the ongoing political juggling act of trying to appear more pro-NHS than anyone else.

And to that end, I can’t help feel disheartened at the calculated way the announcement was made on a Sunday morning television show - designed to capture the Monday morning newspaper headlines and the blogs, tweets and Facebook posts of the weekenders keeping half an eye on their laptops whilst waiting for something worthwhile to happen on TV.

The announcement was made with only a television host to ask pertinent questions - a host constrained by etiquette, time and an agenda that pushed the discussion along far quicker than an open debate in the House of Commons (where the Autumn Statement is due to take place on Wednesday). By then, I am sure that Mr Osborne’s special advisors will be aware of the arguments and questions he is likely to face in Parliament, thanks to this high-profile, comfy-sofa test-drive.

Even if the money helps us, the manner of the announcement leaves a bad taste in my mouth - further demonstrating that any tactics will do when using the NHS as leverage for May’s election.

Dr Samir Dawlatly is a GP in Birmingham


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Readers' comments (3)

  • Actually I think the analogy is good but the mediums poured in represent the workload,not the money. We are at the stage that the water is overflowing and there really is no more capacity.

    Drowning will soon ensue. Rescusitation will be too late.

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  • A science teacher places two five-litre measuring cylinders filled with pebbles on the desk in front of his students.

    Pointing to the first cylinder, ‘Is this full?’, he asks the class. There are murmurs of yes and no and a few non-committal grunts. He takes a large beaker of gravel and tips it into the cylinder.

    ‘Is it full now?’ The students are quiet, sensing a trick question. He pulls out a beaker of sand and pours that into the top of the measuring cylinder.

    ‘How about now?’ he says. A few students nod.

    He shakes his head and produces a beaker of water from under the bench.

    ‘There is still more space in this cylinder,’ he says, as he pours water into it.

    Unexpectedly he then turns his attention to the second five-litre container from which he grabs a few handfuls of pebbles and proceeds to pile then on top of the first full cylinder until they fall onto the table top.

    'See there is still more room,' he says with a worryingly smarmy but reassuring smile. The students are quite, sensing that Mr Junt was having another one of his 'moments'.

    'See there is loads of room in here,' he says grabbing yet more handfuls of pebbles knocking over the second cylinder which rolls to the edge of the bench but some how avoids falling off. He thrusts his handfuls of pebbles down on top of the first cylinder with such force that the cylinder chips and a crack appears in it's side. Water and sand stars leaking from the crack. The lab assistant having noticed one of Mr Junt's 'moments' comes and guides him, still smiling into the prep room.

    'Off you go kids,' said the lab assistant. Sensing a longer break before double counting the students file out quickly. Only one looks at the cylinders on the way out and notices they are labeled 'demand' and 'GP resource'.

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  • If a man digs a huge pit and throws me into it then offers me a ladder to climb out again, should I thank him?
    If someone steals a large asset that I part-own with many other then gives me a quid, should I thank him?

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