Tuesday, 23 August 2016

There are lies, damned lies and Tory health policies

A seven-day NHS. Sounds good. Perhaps for patients. Above all for a governing party which was never strong on ideas and needed a catchy one to win an election.

It’s been a bit of a Tory mantra, “do more for less.” They don’t actually believe in it. If they did, they’d never have cut the top rate of tax down to 45%. Instead, they’d have said, “do more for less – you’re rich enough.” But for its major supporters and paymasters, the lesson is “do more with the lot more your shareholders keep giving you, and which we’re going to ensure you keep your clutches on.”

Instead, what they really meant was, “do more while we pay you less.” That’s why the junior doctors are up in arms. To get this “seven-day NHS up and running, the Tory governments insisting that people in one of the most stressful occupations in the world give up more of their limited relaxation time at the weekend.

Nurses haven’t struck, but the constant decline in working conditions, to which this initiative will surely contribute, is behind the increasing difficulty we have in recruiting sufficient numbers.

The alternative would be to come up with a bit more money, but that’s not going to happen. How do you fund an increase for the NHS if you’re cutting the top rate of tax? Instead, the NHS stumbles from one crisis into another. At the end of the 2015-16 year, an unprecedented two-thirds of English NHS Trusts (the organisations that run hospitals) were in deficit.

How deficits have grown
Source: King's Fund
There is talk of some more money to fund the seven-day NHS. But it’s £10bn and will only be available at the end of the parliament – just in time for the next election, but rather too late to ease the pain in between.

Most of us knew the idea of a seven-day NHS was just a ploy for votes. There was nothing realistic there. But people could still claim that it was meant, for real. Until internal government papers were leaked to the Guardian and Channel 4. These make it clear that the government itself was warned about how difficult it would be to achieve the seven-day target, without “workforce overload.”

I suppose that at least proves the junior doctors are right. The government has no compunction about overloading its workforce.

Not when there’s something really important at stake. Like votes.

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