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Playing games with the NHS?

The Labour Leader did a decent job of his interview with Jeremy Paxman last night. My judgement is that he 'won' the debate that wasn't held - instead we had the two main party leaders facing separately Jeremy Paxman and the studio audience.  There was no head-to-head confrontation.  But in my view Ed Miliband 'won' because he didn't 'lose'; in contrast, David Cameron 'lost' because he didn't 'win'.

What really came out of it was Ed Miliband in a different light - not the 'geek' he has been portrayed, but a forceful and motivated leader.  This came out in his answer to the question of why he stood against his brother, David, for the leadership.  He gave a good account of himself.  But, and it is a big but, there was nothing from either of the two leaders about how they would deal with the £30 bn gaping hole in funding that will develop in the NHS over the next 5 years.

The NHS is uppermost in the issues of concern to voters.  Yet neither party has produced convincing answers to the principle question of funding.

Responding to a speech by Ed Miliband marking the launch of the Labour Party General Election campaign today, in which he outlined Labour plans for the NHS,  the BMA (the doctors representative association) called once again for the parties not to play games with the NHS.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair said:

“The test of any health policy should be whether it benefits patients, yet 95 per cent of doctors do not believe the quality of patient care has improved under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

“Proposals to remove the most damaging elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, to support more joined up care and to prevent the private sector from cherrying picking the most profitable services are a step in the right direction. The BMA wants a publicly provided and funded health service, and believes the NHS should always be the preferred provider."

He called for a commitment to provide more GPs to meed growing demand.

"A commitment of more GPs is vital to meet rising demand on services, especially as more care is being delivered in the community. However, with general practice facing a recruitment and retention crisis we must first address the challenge of getting more doctors to choose to become GPs."

The Prime Minister, David Cameron insisted in his interview with Jeremy Paxman that funding for the NHS had risen over the last five years. Yes it has,  but by the lowest ever level or just 0.9% per year - not enough to meet the growing demands for care in the community and pressures on A&E.

The government have cut local authority funding by 40% which in turn has reduced funding of social care by 20%. The consequence is an increase strain on the NHS.

Commenting on Ed Miliband's speech opening the Labour campaign and promising more funding for the NHS',  Dr Mark Porter says:

“While extra funding is desperately needed, this announcement falls far short of explaining how the NHS will plug the £30bn gap it faces by 2020."

The NHS faces a crisis in the coming years. Sticking plaster solutions won't do.

“There must be no more games with the NHS. Rather than political parties bidding against each other for sticking plaster solutions which don’t go far enough, what is needed is a serious, detailed look at the investment health and social care services will need to cope with rising demand from an ageing population, and a long-term, fully funded plan to deliver this. This is the only way to ensure the NHS can rise to the enormous challenges facing it.”

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