April 14, 2015 by Protect Our NHS
Protect our NHS is holding health hustings in constituencies from Kingswood in South Gloucestershire, through Bristol and down to Weston-super-Mare in North Somerset and all the parties know that currently the polls show the NHS to be one of the single most important issues to voters. So what are we hearing from the candidates? Manifestos are coming thick and fast and the present thinking looks like this.
Let’s begin with UKIP:
To say that UKIP are making it up as they go along may be somewhat to understate the case. Up until a few weeks ago, the health section of their policy website sat alongside a logo which says “Health Insurance” with an “Approved” stamp across it. But their most recent promulgations don’t mention this at all. Instead they talk of:
• £3bn new funding for new staff including 8,000 GPs.
• Train more GPs.
• Free GPs from the ‘burden of unnecessary data collection, target chasing, revalidation, and appraisals work’.
• Ensure that GPs’ surgeries are open at least one evening per week, where there is demand for it.
And the obvious one:
• Require all migrants, overseas students and visitors to have medical insurance to save £2bn from ‘health tourism’.
There’s some good stuff in there. It would be stupid to deny it, but the gaps are pretty enormous too. There is nothing about whether they intend to repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act and absolutely nothing about how they would they would fund this or sort out the current financial mess.
The Lib Dems
Well apparently… “The Liberal Democrats are committed to delivering better care for everyone.” As statements of the blindingly obvious go that’s a pretty good one. They are: “Improving services across the NHS, with 6,000 more doctors, lower waiting times and giving cancer drugs to 30,000 people.”
It’s really dangerous to play games with statistics. So, hands up, how many of you think that the coalition has increased doctor numbers by 6,000? OK, by any amount? Well you may be surprised to know that the real number given to me by John Lister (co-author of NHS for Sale) – and a committed fighter for a public NHS – is that hospital doctor numbers under the coalition have gone up by 7,142 including locums while staff doctor numbers have gone up by 8,826. The statistic that no one seems to keep is on the number of NHS trained doctors and nurses who are leaving this country every month because of the morale shattering pressure of working within the NHS since 2010. My guess is that the much vaunted recruitment is hardly keeping pace with the exodus.
The LibDems will increase NHS spending by £8 billion a year by 2020/21 and ensure that NHS mergers no longer come under the jurisdiction of the Competition and Markets Authority meaning that commissioners will not to have to put all services out to tender. In other words they will reverse one of the most damaging elements of the 2012 Act to which they signed up and traipsed through the lobby to support.
And so to the Tories. The best thing about having a man like Lynton Crosby running their campaign is that, unlike the average Westminster fantasist, he knows when he is on hiding to nothing. So, with the NHS top of the political poll issues running up to the election, it wasn’t even mentioned in the top 6 Tory priorities. Instead they had a few crowd pleasers which they hoped would pass muster. These initially included:
“Continuing to ring-fence the NHS budget, with a real-terms increase in health spending from 2015 to 2020.” This, of course, will make a change from ring fencing the NHS budget over the last five years by not having even a cost of living increase which, of course, has meant a real terms decrease in the budget. With panic setting in at Central Office, this promise then become an £8bn increase over the course of the next parliament and has now become words to the effect that they will put in whatever cash it takes to protect the NHS. Oh and they’ve also added the “promise” that all hospitals in England will provide “a truly seven-day NHS” by 2020. It’s five years out from this election, of course, but don’t worry – it is a “promise”. Just like the one made by David Cameron in 2010 that “there will be no more top down reorganisation of the NHS”.
And so to the Greens who are good on health. They say “We don’t believe that the public’s health should ever be up for auction. That’s why we are completely opposed to the Conservatives’, Labour’s, and Liberal Democrats’ policies of introducing market forces and competition into the NHS – a process which is placing the interests of corporate profits ahead of the nation’s wellbeing.
The Greens will:
• Fight for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use.
• End the creeping privatisation of the NHS and repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
• Make mental health a much higher priority with resources to match this status
Good on ‘em although the maths of funding looks pretty iffy.
And thus to Labour.
Let’s not muck about here. New Labour for a long time looked like the Tory party in exile. It espoused market solutions with all the fervour of a new convert and even today, after Ed Miliband has pushed back against the Blairite wing, he is being routinely saboutaged by the likes of Mandelson and Millburn. Of Mandelson the less said the better, but let’s just put Millburn in the place he deserves. He is no better than Rifkind or Straw or their predecessor in trough snouting crime, Hoon. While claiming to retain a lofty Olympian vision he is up to his fetlocks in private health with a position on the European advisory board of Bridgepoint, the off shore, tax avoiding, venture capital owner of Care UK, Oasis Health and many other private health companies. He is a consultant to PWC, director of other private care companies – look him up. To my mind he’s a disgrace to whatever principles of the Labour movement which remain.
Andy Burnham on the other hand has been playing a blinder. Maybe I’m a sucker, but he seems really to have thought through the issues, realised what New Labour did wrong, and fought hard within the party to get a commitment to a publicly owned NHS. The party still lacks the guts to get rid of private companies altogether, but Mr Burnham is committed to repealing the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, taking competition law out of the commissioning process, having the NHS always as the preferred provider of health services and scrapping the Section 75 regulations that have made tendering of new services statutory.
And here, as the Americans say, is the thing.
The thing that I don’t get about Labour is its refusal to come out fighting. Labour didn’t cause the 2008 banking crisis. Der. It was the banks. Sure New Labour’s love affair with the City meant that it wore blinkers rather than gloves when dealing with the crooks in the Square Mile. And the City as I have been told endless times, runs on two things – fear and greed. Greed took us into the 2008 disaster and fear will keep the country poor for as long as it takes for us to forget it was their greed which caused it.
So where do I stand?
I stand by not accepting that austerity is the answer for our NHS or any other of our public services. Austerity’s a con. Keynes was right. Hayek and Friedman were wrong and we need to fight back. If you’re not as angry as I am, then you should be. If you haven’t already – read Owen Jones’ new book, The Establishment. It makes you see exactly what we, the ordinary citizens of this country, are up against. We’re completely outgunned by the establishment which includes pretty much all the media and we’re massively out-financed by the City money pouring into the Conservative’s election coffers.
Another five years of a coalition like this in power and we’ll scarcely recognise this country. No NHS, no Social Care, no local authority services, no BBC. What’s left will just be a stinking rich capital city, a massively reduced commitment to educate our children and an outsourced and casualised, zero hours workforce, too scared and too cowed to even think about voting.
We hope to run other personal views on here over the next three weeks.