Sunday, 19 October 2014

Labour spin on the NHS

Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham was interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning and I am sure that I was not the only one left slightly depressed by his performance. I heard him speak a couple of years ago at the Local Government Association's annual assembly and he seemed to have a clear and realistic understanding of the massive challenges facing the future of the service to include the cost of the groundbreaking medical research being undertaken, increasing levels of expectation, the ageing population and the problems with the cost of social care. He had some interesting thoughts on improved links between health and social care although my understanding is that most of his conclusions were rejected by his own party leaders. This morning his golden ticket was to fund improved cancer services by a combination of mansion tax, increased tax on tobacco companies and a vague suggestion of raising greater tax income from hedge funds. He then said almost as an aside that a Labout government would also restructure to sort out the other funding problems facing the NHS. Well that's alright then! The reality is that the mansion house tax is some way from being deliverable as I have mentioned previously, the proposed tax on tobacco companies would raise relative peanuts and Mr Burnham did a good impression of not having a clue how the measures on hedge funds would deliver - something he seems to have in common with most other people. The truth is of course that measures along the lines announced do nothing to address the fundamental funding issues which face the NHS and if anything mislead the public by suggesting that with a policy along these lines the future of the NHS is safe. In my view the first reality is that the most important step in securing the future of the NHS is to deliver a strong economy. Without an underlying economic strength the NHS will inevitably crash into a financial buffer sooner rather than later. Having delivered that an adult and cross part debate needs to take place on the underlying priorities of the service and how these can be delivered in a fair and universal way.  I do not believe that there is any front line politician from either of the two main parties who is not committed to the future of the NHS and to suggest otherwise is the the politics of the playground. However this is too important an issue for the next election to degenerate into an " I can spend more than you" or "I care more than you do" argument. There needs to be a debate which goes to the core of the problems and which does not try to mislead the public. The reality is that successive governments have spent increasing money on health but for the reasons indicated above the demand is not going to reduce anytime soon. In the meantime in areas like Southend some excellent joined up thinking and working is taking place between health and adult care which I hope my successor will continue to prioritise because I am completely as one with Andy Burnham in believing that this is an area where improvements simply must be made.

No comments:

Post a Comment