Today marks the ‘Diamond Jubilee’ of the NHS, however the condition of the NHS today is far from ‘diamond’. Whilst there have been undeniable improvements in the performance of the NHS over the past 60 years, this improvement is part of a natural progression and should be expected. My cousin is now a consultant working with the NHS in Sheffield and she believes that Labour has made the NHS a business, far more so than the Tories ever did, and have put in highly paid managers rather than properly trained professionals. She claims it is a running joke with some of the junior doctors that there must be as many managers as there are patients in the NHS! Every time the government wants another report – another 5-10 people are taken on, but they are never let go, there are some people working for the NHS who don’t know what they do – they just turn up for work every day and look busy. This is the state of our NHS, pot loads of money, all wasted on red tape, mis-managment and all in all a shoddy operation.
As Cameron has rightly identified, Labour has strangled the NHS in red tape. They have been testing to destruction the idea that the NHS can be improved by more bureaucracy, more central control and more initiatives from the Department of Health. They have invested billions in the NHS but in the wrong areas. They have provided it with record funding and NHS bossess have lapped it up like pigs at a trough. However the improvement witnessed is not proportional to the investment. Thus it is a bad investment. Labour, despite their previous good track record with the NHS, have little if any idea how to ‘fix’ the NHS. The Tories track record is misleading and thus so is the false glow that surrounds Labour’s record.
Naturally during the 1980’s Margaret Thatcher’s primary aim was the economy after the last disastorous Labour government and most other areas had to play second fiddle. In reality the economy had to be priority. With the economy in the state it was in the NHS wouldn’t have been able to last in the current conditions. Britain was economically ‘a dead man walking’ and thus reforms of the NHS at the time were both un-neccessary and a distraction from the job in hand. However this has led to a great deal of fallacy surrounding the Conservative record with the NHS. Most people, if asked, would have said that the Conservative Government reduced expenditure on the NHS and pushed it to the brink of oblivion. This is untrue. In fact, between 1979 and1987, there was an increase in funding of 21% in real terms. The real problem was that demand was increasing at an unstoppable rate and given the economic priorities of the Thatcher government they did mismanage the NHS in some ways.
However the Tories of 2008 are not the Tories of 1988. The greatest tribute we can provide the NHS with is a promise. A promise to ensure that a Conservative government in 2010, which looks ever more likely, will be the champion of the NHS just as we are the champions of the economy. We will fix it the way we fixed the eocnomy. We will scrap these New Labour ‘targets’ which detract attention from the real point of the NHS: care of the patient. We will tackle this culture of waste and root it out. Cameron’s plans will give power back to the patients, make them understand their hospitals, their treatments and give them more power over their own care. The government needs to stop interfering and instead should provide the NHS with substantial funding with broad goals in mind rather than concrete targets which have proved unreliable and unsustainable.