Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeCulture WarThe Tories' NHS delusion

The Tories’ NHS delusion


I SUSPECT that many readers will have received an email from Steve Barclay (or, more likely, one of his moronic political scribblers) telling us of the government’s plans to restore the NHS to full health following the pandemic. He claims that the government will be ‘investing’ an extra £14.1billion pounds. (Don’t you just love the point one, implying an accuracy of 0.1 per cent in a government forecast?) I for one am underwhelmed.

Let’s start with the ‘investment’. An investment is expenditure that generates a return, also known as a profit. The NHS doesn’t make profits and what Steve’s scribbler has identified is more spending. For reasons that escape me, this is thought a good thing. It would be if the government, through canny investment and prudent spending, had created a wealth fund from which it dispensed capital to improve the lot of the electorate. Sadly the opposite is true: successive governments of all flavours have created a gargantuan debt pile, £2.8trillion and counting. The interest is now over £100billion a year which the government is having to borrow. (The £2.8trillion excludes the lavish but unfunded public sector pensions, many of which are destined for NHS employees.)

Barclay also seems to be under the delusion that Covid damaged the NHS. Has it slipped his mind that the NHS was supposed to lead on preparing for a pandemic? Its lack of forecasts and preparation is why it collapsed under the threat of a virus no more lethal than flu. (Mind you, the NHS has a track record of almost collapsing every winter anyway – the novelty about the pandemic was that it mostly happened in spring). That in turn led to the lunacy of Ferguson and the lockdowns. The less said about Hancock the better.

Here’s the reality – the NHS has failed. It may well have been failing before, but it’s definitely failing now on any measure and at every level. Before spending exorbitant sums on rebuilding it, any sensible person would have a look at what went wrong and why. He or she might also ask whether the monolithic organisation created in 1946, more than three-quarters of a century ago, is the right way to deliver healthcare now. Life expectancy, demographics and technologies and treatments have all changed dramatically. While there have been multiple reviews, including one by the current Chancellor during his six years as Health Secretary, none have delivered a viable, successful or affordable model. There’s a reason no other country does public health the way the UK does: they all have more sense. The current generation of politicians are as incapable of bringing the NHS under control as they are of protecting our borders or defending the Realm. Health Secretary Steve Barclay worked as a lawyer in the financial sector having read history at Cambridge and done a five-month gap year Army commission. That’s not a background for getting a grip of an organisation, or even for interrogating a permanent secretary.

His email promises a bright future for the NHS. Or rather, it quotes some things that seem impressive: 90,000 more medical staff (whence and at what cost?) and 40 more hospitals by 2030 (same questions). But the problems are now and they need fixing now. A new hospital in 2030 won’t solve the impossibility of getting a face-to-face appointment with your GP today. A larger NHS may suit the Blob; it bankrupts the economy and doesn’t necessarily deliver for the patient (who is increasingly impatient).

So no, Mr Barclay, I won’t be voting for you. Nor will I be sending your grubby, disgraced and pointless party of Blob apologists a cheque. I’m voting Reform.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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