The NHS needs more money. No-one should be any doubt about that. The NHS cannot operate without staff from ward orderlies to Consultants. It needs huge numbers of supplies from drugs to loo rolls; from blankets to bed pans; from food to effective IT systems. It hasn’t got enough which means, in particular, that the NHS staff are grossly overworked and over stressed. There is a huge burn out and drop out amongst staff. That all creates more burnout and drop out!
Liberal Democrats have made absolutely clear that the shortfall must and will be met but it cannot be met by promises or accountancy malpractices such as the PFI deals negotiated by the last Labour Government. The only place that we can find the cash unless we privatise the NHS which Lib Dems will never do is from the taxpayer. That is why we are proposing to put 1p on income tax which will bring in £8 billion. We believe that lie us you will feel this is the right thing to do.
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 including the Royal Liverpool Hospital debacle which was signed off by the 2010 Government but 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.
But it’s not only cash that is needed but, in some cases, legislation. Drugs problems are partly caused because we won’t change our legal system. Lib Dems believe that we should treat narcotic drugs like other drugs we tolerate such as tobacco, alcohol and gambling. We believe that if you legalise and control use of drugs you can stop crime but crucially in health terms recognise and deal with addiction.
Similarly, with the use of sugar and fizzy drinks. The major cause of obesity is over consumption of salt, sugar and fats. Fizzy, sugary drink is especially toxic in this regard AND is the cause of 95%+ of the 43,000 cases of total extraction of all major dental surgery required by children under the age of 16 every year. We don’t want to criminalise sugar but we do want legislation to reduce the use of it by food and drink manufacturers.
So, my first personal priority is to reverse the cuts in public health budgets which have taken place since 2015. If we could then use that money, we could reverse the problems caused by drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sugar which create the vast majority of preventable health problems.
My second personal priority would be to deal with the huge gap between the provisions for mental health and physical health problems. Many of these are closely interrelated. People who have poor mental health can often find themselves becoming physically ill. People who are physically ill often develop mental ill health. Society has words which apply to mental health which add to the prejudice which mentally ill people face. They are nutters; demented; round the twist; crackpots; lunatics.
Yet those descriptions could be applied to 25% of us at some time in our lives because that is the odds for us developing, for at least a time, a mental illness. It is the discrimination which stops people coming forward. You can be publicly be brave about a broken leg but not about a broken mind. All of us have to work to stop this so that mental illnesses as well as physical ones can be dealt with early before they take charge.
My third would be for us all not to talk about health solely in terms of the NHS. Health is about homes; and transport; and decent food and poverty and clean air and education. In fact, the whole of the way we live affects our own and the nation’s health.
You can find out more about Lib Dem policies and mine on the Health Service at https://twitter.com/i/status/1194210475011182593
The latest recommendations from the professionals in the NHS published in September will slowly begin slowly to deal with the above issues but the appalling problems of Social Care. 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.
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 point scoring free for all. Lib Dems do not believe in further privatisation of the NHS but we do see the needs for reform.