Dare we hope? A string of celebrations mark the NHS’s 70th anniversary later this month. The government has backtracked on allowing doctors into the UK from non-EU countries, and a few days ago promised more cash for the NHS – with the added rarity of a serving Conservative government openly admitting this funding would come at least in part from tax increases. All in all, a hopeful few signs.
Doctors for the NHS has long criticised serving governments when their principal approach to the NHS has been one framed by the ideology of privatising. That is, the systematic, unaccountable, largely secretive, fragmenting and handing over to private concerns of the NHS piecemeal for – as far as we can tell – no other reason than an ideological conviction that this must be the right thing to do. Which has lead directly to the spectacle of private companies walking away from their contractual commitments because not enough profit was in it, or they simply couldn’t deliver at the price agreed. Thereby costing the taxpayer even more. The evolving circus of STP/ACO developments remains a tangible threat, as does the burden of PFI schemes, for years to come. The requirement of the NHS to tender services out and take the cheapest bidder, as the Secretary of State remains at arm’s length in an ongoing tragedy of abrogation of responsibility, are with us still.
And yet. This government is finally heeding, at least in part, what an increasing number of the public are now also telling them: your continued under-funding of the NHS will not be tolerated indefinitely. The proposed new increases in budget will still be, in real terms, roughly on a par with what the Thatcher governments put up. We are a long way from restoring the NHS to the level of service it had, let alone taking it forward as ambitiously as the government says it wants to. But credit where it is due: politicians in power are starting to listen.
Whether the NHS struggles on as a frail 70+ year old or regains its strength is a matter of political choice. One the UK public demonstrably wants to happen. We acknowledge what this government has done lately, and welcome it.
Doctors for the NHS