A Labour government would put the NHS back on the road to recovery, the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Twickenham Nick Grant has said in a letter published in the Richmond & Twickenham Times.
The current crisis in A&E services should give us all pause for thought in the run up to the general election. As the BBC have reported, in the last 4 weeks the number of people waiting more than 4 hours for treatment – so called trolley waits – has trebled to over 47,000 when compared to the same time last year. As the flow within hospitals has seized up the knock on effects are being felt in a 62% rise in the number of cancelled operations. Our health service, free at the point of need, is perhaps our most precious public asset. Of all the post war innovations it has done the most to reduce avoidable suffering. Which is why we must fight to protect it now in its own hour of need.
The Coalition government has failed the NHS by pressing on with an ideological privatisation agenda, making short-sighted cuts to social services that have only increased the pressure on hospitals and attacking the core values of public service that make the NHS tick.
It is now clear that the national health is an unsuitable subject for profit generation. Whilst some aspects might make money - simple, technology driven treatments can no doubt be provided with a margin - the truth is that our nation’s health has become too complex and interconnected for individual companies to be allowed to cherry pick their way to profit. In the recent failure of the privately run Hinchingbrooke Hospital we may well have reached the high water mark of health service privatisation. Just as with the rescue of failed banks during the financial crisis, there are some things only the scale and reach of the state can deliver in the national interest.
Increased longevity, whilst a blessing, has created the new challenge of patients with more complex illnesses and needs that extend beyond the hospital grounds. Cuts to the social care budget have meant that older patients with multiple care needs are unable to be discharged as adequate support cannot be provided to them in their homes. We have 6,000 fewer community nurses now than we did 10 years ago. Those that remain are under relentless pressure, their time with patients divided into strict 15 minute units with nothing extra allowed to provide the human contact that many of our isolated elderly need and deserve.
The NHS is not a business: it depends upon values of service, self-sacrifice and yes idealism. Unfortunately, the tone on values was set early on by the Coalition’s flagship Health and Social Care Act – a costly, top down, marketising restructure that was never put to the British people before the 2010 election. Repealing it will only be the first step a Labour government will need to take to put the NHS back on the road to recovery.
Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Twickenham