NHS: Back to the 1980’s

Something is wrong with the NHS that much is clear. What can it be I wonder? Is it anything to do with the government? Well, let’s look at the evidence. Ever since the coalition came to power they have been involved in a huge reorganisation of the NHS which has seen GPs take control of the service because they know their patients and their needs best. Huge upheavals of staff, systems and oversight have been rolled out in the name of modernisation and accountability. All this has cost anything between £3bn to £4bn and counting. At the same time, there has been on an economy drive looking to save £20bn per year from the budget. Add to this the top slicing from the overall budget of over £1bn per year allegedly for social care for the elderly and you can perhaps see a picture emerging.

Of course, I am too cynical because we all know the Tories love the NHS and it is safe in their hands. All the talk of walk in centres closing, Accident and Emergency units downgrading and hospitals closing or merging are just that: talk. I should learn to embrace the government’s new found love of all things NHS! Can I though?

I visited a couple of doctor’s surgeries the other day to get a feel for what GPs are thinking in this brave new world. It was enlightening and interesting. There were similarities but also huge differences and cynicisms. What all said was they wanted to do the best for their patients. You’d expect that though wouldn’t you? And I believe it. However, they also recognised there was huge disparity in quality with GPs in Coventry which is a point well understood in our city. Their answers though were different when it came to the question of what to do about it.

Some embraced modernisation and their chance to influence improvement whilst offering a service from purpose built premises owned lock stock and barrel by the GPs themselves. Others just carried on the same as they always did as they felt they offered a great service which their patients really liked. New systems be blowed was the attitude. However, let’s think about this for a minute. GPs now control about 60% of the overall NHS budget – about £70bn. When you consider in 1997 the overall NHS budget was £33bn you can see the enormity of this responsibility. You would think therefore with GPs doing the best for their patients that improvements would be seen in all sectors of the service. Yet the truth is somewhat different.

In the meantime the government continue to talk up failings of the NHS whilst saying that any decisions about closures, increasing waiting lists or cancelled appointments and operations are local decisions and nothing to do with them. The sheer deceitfulness of their policy is exposed as an attempt to bring the NHS to its knees so the Tories can then ‘prove’ it can’t work and must be done away with. It can’t be modernised they will say because we’ve tried that!

As someone once said: Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

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