An indicator of the squeeze on hospitals is the increased number of Trusts in financial difficulty. Five years ago it was just over 20%. Now it is over 50%. More than half the NHS Trusts are running a deficit. It amounts to £800 million in total.
The origins of these deficits is not hard to find. Demand on the NHS has been growing yet funding has increased by just 0.9% per year. With complex reorganisation, cuts in spending on social care of around 20%, the burden on the NHS has never been greater. Little wonder then that there are stark warnings that the system is at breaking point.
The projected figures are stark. It is estimated that there will be a funding gap of £30 billion for the NHS by 2020. None of the political parties have really demonstrated how they would fill this gap. But the Conservatives pretend there is no problem that can;t be solved according to Mr Cameron 'by efficiency savings'. There has already been £20 billion taken out of the NHS over the last five years in 'efficiency savings'. Mr Cameron it seems expects to find a further £30 billion! It is 'bury your head in the sand' time.
Whatever 100 business bosses may say, you cannot have a healthy economy with an unhealthy work force. Their intervention is hopelessly shortsighted. The poorest are being made to pay for the financial collapse and further cuts will be made in welfare spending. That is cuts in support for hard working families on low pay.
The Tories like to spin the myth that cuts in welfare only affect 'scroungers' and the 'work shy'. Yet this is not so. Mr Cameron is happy for many to work with zero hours contracts. He himself would not wish to work on such a basis. Yet he will do nothing to stop the exploitation of others. No wonder these business bosses support the Tories. Miliband is right to push for regulation of zero-hour contracts. The counter argument that some people benefit from them is disingenuous as the majority do not and have currently no choice. Cameron talks of creating 'real' jobs. Real jobs have real wages and proper contracts.
I don't normally give a party political opinion on this blog. This is an exception. And it is and exception driven by the unbalanced intervention of these 'business bosses'. I have advice for them. It isn't business bosses that decide the outcome of the election. It is the voters, and voters should take a balanced look at the impact of 'austerity'. They should consider the impact on the poorest and not simply the wealthiest. It is no the business bosses who are 'wealth creators'; it is hard working people. This does not dismiss the contribution entrepreneurs make, but they are only one factor in judging a successful economy. A successful economy must be judged not solely on profits, not solely on number of jobs or on growth, but on how well all benefit from it.
A 'successful economy' doesn't automatically trickle down to the poorest. Indeed without regulation it almost certainly will not. This is why it took years of struggle to improve pay and working conditions. That is why unions exist. That is the balance. Free market capitalism isn't inherently beneficent.
That is why the choice exists in politics. The choice isn't between profligate spending and cuts. It is about social responsibility and how best we meet it. It is about how best we share. How best we distribute the benefits of growth. It is about how best we can give all our children opportunities to gain the skills necessary for life and decent jobs.
The Tories peddle a set of myths on welfare and not least of these is that somehow it can be cut without pain. They peddle myths about 'efficiency' as if it can be easily identified and cut. It can't. When they boast of taking £20 billion out of the NHS in 'efficiency' savings they are talking about cuts. Mr Cameron in the TV 'debate' said as much again in response to Miliband. The NHS didn't not fall apart for no reason. It fell apart because funding was reduced. Mr Cameron says in reply that funding increased. Yes it did by 0.9% per year on average. That is the worst record of any government in decades. It is the lowest average annual change of any parliament, contrasting with average annual increases of 5.7 per cent under the Labour administrations between 1997 and 2009.
The problems of the NHS are not caused substantially by inefficiencies. They are caused by increased burdens due to massive cuts in social welfare at a time when the government have introduced complex reorganisation and 'efficiency cuts'. That is the bottom line.
Who would I trust with the NHS? I would trust a party with at least a record of improvement. I would not trust a party that has broken every pledge they made on protecting the NHS. The party I trust on that basis is not the Conservative party and that is why I will not be voting for them.
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