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We must tell people the truth - the Tories are deliberately wrecking the NHS

Dr Kailash Chand

Dr Kailash Chand

Last week national media reported the BMA’s warning that the NHS ‘winter crisis’ is now a year-round crisis.

Hospital doctors, GPs and patients have just endured one of the worst winters on record, with thousands of cancelled operations, unacceptably long waits to be seen and people who are already at their most vulnerable having to face the indignity of being treated in hospital corridors.

This Government has been in denial throughout the crisis; their arrogance shows this is the level of service they want the public to accept as the norm.

The NHS in general and primary care in particular entered this, the worst crisis of its 70-year history, since Jeremy Hunt became the health secretary. And how can Hunt’s performance be rated? All the key indicators within the NHS worsened, with waiting lists reaching 10-year highs.

Politicians’ reckless exploitation of goodwill means the NHS and its staff have come to end of their tether

A shortage of doctors, nurses, beds and care packages for elderly patients means that black alerts, trolleys in corridors and dangerous safety levels for patients are at a peak. NHS England has cancelled tens of ­thousands of hospital operations, which is creating the biggest backlog in the health service’s history.

A&E services are in a permanent state of chaos. Despite Hunt’s boasting, mental health services are still woefully underfunded. We have seen more than 4,000 mental health beds close since 2012. Social care services are in a state of paralysis. All these indicators mean more work in primary care without resources and funding.

The pressure on secondary care directly increases workload in primary care. Many GPs believe that however much capacity is provided, whether by telephone, in person or over the internet, this capacity is rapidly filled. GP services are in a perilous state. There were 70.1 GPs per 100,000 population in 2017 compared with 75.7 in 2014 – a drop of 7%. Almost 4,000 GPs have retired early in the past five years – nearly one in 10 of the profession. New figures show the number of GPs per head of the population has fallen for each of the last four years. The GP workforce really is in dire straits across the country.

Factoring in inflation, we know the NHS is suffering the longest budget squeeze in its history. From 1948 when it was formed, through to 2010, the NHS has received an annual funding uplift of around 4% each year. By contrast, from 2010 to 2020, this increase has more than halved, working out at just under 2% per annum. In England, NHS trusts are on track to overspend by more than a billion pounds this year.

We are the sixth wealthiest country on the planet and it is indefensible to starve the NHS of the funds it so desperately needs. To make things worse, billions of pounds of health service funding have passed to non-NHS providers under the Tories. That sum will continue to grow.

Jeremy Hunt may be the longest serving health secretary ever, but he will in my view primarily be remembered as the worst. The only ‘progress’ Hunt has made over the past five and half years is to turn the NHS into NHS plc, increasingly drawing on public funds to line the pockets of wealthy venture capitalists or multinationals.

My verdict, as a doctor working in and for the NHS for almost 40 years, is that history will judge this administration’s record as one characterised by broken promises, reductions in necessary funding and destructive legislation, leaving health services weaker, more fragmented and less able to perform their vital role than at any time in the NHS’s history.

And despite the best efforts of doctors and nurses, many patients are receiving ‘very poor care’ within the NHS. The core infrastructure of the NHS is also being eroded with the closure of many GP surgeries, hospitals and thousands of NHS beds since 2010.

Our NHS is being placed in the hands of accountants and businessmen who make financially driven decisions on which profitable future contracts should be awarded to what provider, including GP support services. Politicians’ reckless exploitation of goodwill and its product – low morale – means the NHS and its staff have now come to end of their tether. There is no doubt in my mind it is Jeremy Hunt and the Tories’ ideological dislike of a publically funded health service that has reduced our NHS to its knees.

We must let the public know what is being done to their NHS and general practice. And the public needs to stand up for the NHS; otherwise it is finished.

The NHS is 70 this year – defend it or lose it.

Dr Kailash Chand is a retired GP in Tameside

 

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Readers' comments (18)

  • No doubt the NHS is suffering because it has become a political football !

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  • David Banner

    The hard truth is that the NHS may be “the envy of the world”, but nobody copies it because it is ruinously expensive. With an increasing and older population, it is inevitable that the NHS will continue to decline, assuming that the electorate continue to vote in governments promising lower taxation. And will the decreasing young continue to pay more and more to care for the increasing old? But instead of facing difficult necessary decisions the Tories continue the voter-friendly mantra of giving “more for less” and “efficiency”. Cowards. Either give the NHS the massive funding it needs, or come clean on plans to reform by stealth, then let the people decide what they want in the next election.

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  • Cobblers

    Yes here we go again, the Tories are sh!t and Labour will solve the NHS' problems with more money except for Zionists, I suppose.

    No.

    The NHS is not the "Envy of the world". Far from it. It is not ruinously expensive if you compare with other countries' health costs. Others have looked at this 1940s masterpiece and seen it as inappropriate in the late 20-teens.

    If you want bang for buck go the way of Cuba. Produce huge numbers of doctors (keeps wages down :-) and do the preventative basics but not much else.

    UK society is unlikely to tolerate that degree of privation so we need to have a talk with ourselves as to what we want.

    Would an NHSLite suffice? Preventative basics and acute medical need with the rest e.g elective surgery and chronic conditions coming under insurance?

    Just one suggestion. There are an infinite number of permutations.

    Just don't keep saying money poured into the NHS is the answer. It is not and it will just keep it staggering on until the next demand for dosh arrives.

    #cathartic

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  • Well said Cobblers.

    The NHS is a bottomless pit. More money is not the answer. I've said it in the past, we need to pay for our choices. 10% NHS contributions on all tobacco/nicotine products, alcohol, fast food, takeaways, sugary snacks/drinks etc as well as abolition of free prescriptions. Should pay for our treatment when we start feeling the ill effects of the bad choices we make.

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  • Extraordinary comments from people who should know better, if they are even doctors at all...

    Suggestions that the NHS is 'ruinously expensive' and a 'bottomless pit' are ignorant politicised tropes, and completely wrong when you look at the global evidence on health costs and the economic multipliers of a functioning health system.

    Suggestions that we'd be better off with some insurance in a privatised system? Hmm, more expensive overall and certainly more expensive to the consumer. Fans of British Gas plc, I assume.

    Is money the answer? If we were to have equitable funding with Germany or Sweden, the UK would have £24bn more to spend each year, now. Problem solved, with actual spare capacity for say, a 'flu pandemic or a terrorist attack.

    Is the problem the Tory govt? Yes, because it can be shown by their policies, legislation and lies that they are deliberately and knowingly allowing the NHS to fall into disrepair, with lives being lost daily because of them.

    As for OOH's pay-for-blame NHS model, when one of your children travels in a car with a drunk driver who causes a crash, I'm sure you'd be the first to sell your house to pay for his ITU care, not to mention the years of neuro rehab.

    It's only when these rather smug people who don't bother to read evidence actually have a close relative in need of prompt and expert care that they might decide that perhaps they need and value a functioning NHS after all.

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  • Cobblers

    The use of the word "trope" says it all Nick!

    All I ask is that we might step back a bit from politics and recomsider if the NHS is fit for the 2018+.

    Merely that.

    Stuff your left wing politics and ad hominem attacks. I am happy to stick to the evidence.

    Maybe you just want to pee money up the wall. I don't.

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  • Cobblers

    Trope, for those who didn't read the Times today. Author Matthew Parris.


    What’s with this word “trope”? I’m hearing it everywhere. Like so much language that means less than it sounds, “trope” has leaked out of the academic world, and is now used when you want to say “cliché” or “stereotype” but sound like a sociologist. The buzzword is generally used to convey disapproval of somebody’s characterisation, giving the impression that the speaker has diagnosed another’s lazy prejudice: ie I say “those sheep have no minds of their own”, and you say “Oh, that old trope!”. Eagerness to parrot new words for old ideas betrays terrible insecurities. Distrust such people.

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  • Cobblers indeed.
    I use words according to their definitions.
    I use evidence to inform my opinions and the evidence is on my side, not yours, which just goes to show that you haven't read it and therefore don't know what you're talking about.

    The rest is your desperate trolling. So, goodbye.

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  • Nick Mann is spot on.

    Can we not see the bigger picture?

    See this part of the bigger picture:

    https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/be-honest-about-pressure-on-the-cps-former-chief-prosecutor-tells-dpp/5065610.article#commentsJump

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  • Vinci Ho

    Typically , we are falling into this trap of polarised ,tribal politics every time we had a debate about the future of the health service in this country.
    To me , the ‘two tribes’ should be us(medical professionals) and politicians. Those shouting a soundbite but carrying a hidden political agenda , should be ashamed of themselves. There are questions fundamentally needed to be answered and the answers are to be agreed by majority, at least :
    (1) Do people in the country still want NHS ?
    (2) If yes, the current way of funding its survival must be changed . So how? Remember different models have already been tried in various parts of the world ; nobody dares to say their system is perfect . Gives and Takes , it is the name.
    (3) Are we expecting NHS to cover every item of health services ? There is no ifs or buts . A government must provide the audacity , humility but most importantly ,honesty to announce the decision to people of the country transparently.

    As I wrote recently , the current political circumstances only mean that politicians need us more than we need them. Non of us are prepared to take on the blame of failing this 70 years old health service in the hands of successive groups of despicable, duplicitous and devious politicians ruling governments .

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