Over the last few hours I have seen a load of twaddle talked about the NHS and the Labour amendment on the Queens Speech largely by people who seem to know little about how the NHS or Parliament works.
Let’s deal with the Queens Speech first. This is a fantasy Queens Speech which was introduced by Johnson as part of what he hoped would be a very early General Election.
He calls for a General Election then drags her Majesty to Parliament to propose a Queens Speech which could not even begin to be implemented over the few days which remain in a Parliament. That in essence is what a Queens Speech is. It is the Government setting out the Bills it wants to introduce over the course of an annual or longer Parliamentary session.
The fact that it will never be implemented was condemned by Corbyn, Johnson and all political parties outside the Tory Party. Lib Dems then took the absolutely logical decision that they would not legitimise the illegitimate Queens Speech by moving amendments and voting on them. I think they are right. The Parliamentary Lib Dems will make clear when a real Queens Speech comes along how they will vote on the Bills proposed within it. They should not take part in something which is clearly a charade.
Incidentally, the Labour amendment which could actually have not enacted anything but if carried through to real legislation would deeply damage the NHS. They proposed effectively the repeal of the 2012 reforms without putting anything in their place. The result would have been chaos at a time when there seems to be all-Party support for the new proposals recommended not by politicians but by the NHS in September.
Amazingly many people have no idea how the NHS works some let me give them some inconvenient facts.
The most privatisation which has been carried out in the NHS was undertaken by the Labour Governments of Blair and Brown which saddled the NHS with huge PFI debts for years to come., Incidentally the Royal Liverpool Hospital debacle which was signed off by the 2010 Government had already been through the procurement process with a recommendation to appoint Carillion when Andy Burnham was the Secretary of State for Health.
80%+ of all the interventions that we have with the NHS are already with privatised parts of it. 95%+ of all GPs, pharmacists, opticians and dentists are private companies, sole traders or partnerships working to NHS contracts which regulate their practices and professionalism.
Policies from successive Governments over decades has been extremely wasteful in that they seek to cure illness rather than prevent it.
10%+ of our hospital beds are occupied by people with problems caused by obesity. The vast majority of this is preventable.
10%+ of our hospital beds are occupied with people with alcohol or drug problems. The vast majority of these are preventable.
10%+ hospital beds are occupied by people who have no clinical or medical need to be in them but there is no support mechanisms to treat them in their own home or community. Better and cheaper solutions exist for most of them.
80%+ of A & E cases in some hospitals on a Friday and Saturday night are from people who in one way or another are suffering from alcohol related problems.
Not tackling these problems at an early stage wastes money and lives. We could actually be closing hospital wards IF we stopped people becoming ill. If you are obese from the age of 5 the likelihood is that you will have a poor and unhealthy lifestyle until you die. This is a waste of good living and it’s a waste of cash.
The latest NHS recommendations will begin slowly to deal with the above issues. The Government is now three years late with producing a Green (discussion) Paper on Adult Social Care. Instead it regularly gives a bit more cash to councils to add to an already inadequate budget and insists that more money is raised through council tax which is a very unfair tax.
Since 2015 the Government has taken more than £800 million out of the Public Health grant to local councils. This is the money we use on programmes to keep people healthy. It announced at the start of the month a real terms growth in the Public Health Grant of 1% or £85 million for next year. This is exactly the money it took out this year. BUT it then says it will take £80 million of that back to pay for staff increases within public health which it had previously paid for. So, our increase in real terms for the whole of England will be a mind blowing £5 million.
So, there are serious debates about the NHS that need to be had and which would best take place in a situation where professionals and politicians came together to seek a long-term consensus for the NHS rather than a political points scoring free for all. Lib Dems do not believe in further privatisation of the NHS but we do see the needs for reform. That is why our MPs did not vote for an ill thought out amendment in a fantasy Queens Speech. Our NHS is far more important to Lib Dems for us to join with others in using it as a political football.