Saturday, 3 January 2015

Political soundbites on the NHS are not enough

Once again the BMA are warning of the problems faced by an overstretched and underfunded NHS. Now it gives a clear warning that treating the NHS as a political football in the run up to the general election in May is not the way forward.  The NHS needs a period of long-term, sustainable investment, and not to be used as fodder in the election with pledges to throw emergency money at the problems.

We need a coordinated strategy that puts patient care at the heart of the NHS. Labour is the party of the NHS. It can be proud of its history. But it must produce a clear and realistic strategy.  Recent international reports have demonstrated that our NHS is a jewel in our crown. It still leads the world in many regards. But we know it is overstretched. We know that waiting lists are getting longer and the system can breakdown. The staff work hard enough. They deserve better than political sound bites.

The Labour party must show that it can produce a clear and responsible strategy for the NHS and for social care. That will not be easy because it will require funding - not emergency funding, but sustainable long-term commitment.

In response to the Labour Party's dossier on the future of the NHS, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:

“We have repeatedly voiced our concerns that year-on-year reductions in real term NHS funding are continuing to threaten the quality of patient care and access to it. Equally, we believe that the changes to the NHS pursued by successive governments, such as increased privatisation and competition, are eroding the core principles of our healthcare system.

“Instead of focusing on delivering high-quality care for patients, the NHS is being damaged by distracting reorganisation and increasing transaction costs.

“It is a reflection on how hard front-line staff are working that the quality of patient care has so far been protected, and indeed improved, despite years of underinvestment, but the NHS has reached a crossroads and pressure on services is now at a critical point with cracks beginning to appear.

“For patients this means unacceptable waits for treatment that increasingly fail to meet the government’s targets, the increasingly restricted access to some services including operations such as knee and hip replacements, and longer queues in our GP surgeries and emergency departments.

“A doctor's primary duty is to their patient. It is vital that decisions around patient care are clinically not politically led. It is essential that the next government works in partnership with doctors to ensure the future development of the NHS and provide better coordinated care developed around patients’ needs.

“The NHS needs more than party political promises to survive; it needs long-term, sustainable investment to ensure there are enough staff and resources to meet rising demand and provide the best quality care for our patients.”

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