Can politicians of all parties stop ‘playing games’ with the NHS?
The winter of 2014/15 was difficult for the NHS. Newspapers ran pictures of queues outside GP surgeries, hospitals consistently missed A&E targets, and one hospital in Wiltshire even built a tent outside as a temporary treatment facility. The increased demands on the NHS resulting from an increasing population and the heightened prevalence of comorbidities, whilst NHS funding has remained static, has been a cause of concern for patients and clinicians alike.
In February the BMA launched No More Games, a campaign calling on politicians to stop playing games with the NHS. This isn’t about political point scoring against any particular party, all have had a hand in playing politics with the NHS.
The BMA wants:
- No more games with the public’s health, addressing long-term public health issues and ensuring the NHS is properly resourced;
- No more games with NHS funding;
No more games with who’s providing patient care.The funding challenge for the NHS has been a hot topic of debate for politicians this General Election. Funding has remained largely static over the past four years, with the efficiency savings of the Nicholson Challenge mostly delivered by pay restraint for staff. NHS England predicts that the NHS will have a £30bn funding gap by 2020/21. Politicians have committed extra funding: Conservatives £8 billion, Labour £2.5 billion, Liberal Democrats £8 billion and UKIP £3 billion per year. There are claims that an extra £8 billion by 2020/21 coupled with finding efficiencies will close the £30 billion hole that is opening up. However, the £8 billion per year is not a figure that appears in the 39-page Five Year Forward View. How this figure has been arrived at is anyone’s guess – but even if accurate it is heavily dependent on successfully realising efficiencies and even then both Labour and UKIP would be falling far short of properly funding the NHS. The BMA is clear that the funding crisis in the NHS must be addressed, and it must remain free at the point of delivery with no new charges introduced.
The Conservatives have committed to a seven day NHS. A fine ambition but without a full commitment and plan on what a seven day NHS actually would look like (is it a few more consultants on wards on a Saturday and Sunday or a fully staffed, fully operational NHS seven days a week?) and how it is funded, it seems like an empty commitment – and one we have heard before. The Shadow Labour Health Secretary, speaking at a BMA event, said that it was ‘highly irresponsible’ to make the commitment unfunded.
So the tug-of-war continues surrounding the NHS and the battle won’t wind down until the 7th May. Let’s hope they listen up and play #Nomoregames for our NHS for everyone now and in the future.