Consider the impact on the NHS when you cast your vote

Frances Warboys from Defend Enfield NHS says the general election next month is a chance to restore the NHS to its former glory

At last, we have an opportunity to put things right for our treasured NHS! On 4th July, we can vote for a government with the political will to rescue our National Health Service, its patients and its staff.

But first, where did it all go wrong? How could an institution, formerly the envy of the world, suddenly be regarded as on its knees? In 2015, renowned US think tank The Commonwealth Fund ranked the NHS top in a comparison of safety, affordability and efficiency in eleven countries including France, Germany, Australia, and the USA which, with its private healthcare system, came bottom.

Why has the NHS suffered so badly since then? After the 2010 General Election, average annual funding increases fell from around 4% to 1%, and it is a tribute to the excellence of the service that it survived so well for the first few years.

But the long-term effects on staff recruitment and retention, and bed numbers, have now led to waiting lists of 7.5 million, ambulances queuing around the block, and treating patients in hospital corridors and store cupboards. The Royal College of Nursing even recently declared a ‘national emergency’.

The litany of disasters relating to the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are well-known: lockdown and ‘partygate’; failed test-and-trace; and unusable protective clothing for medics and nurses. Nurses have since been rewarded with the lowest pay rise of all public sector workers, while doctors are seeking pay restoration and are now planning another strike.

The current obsession with privatisation of the health service is a major blow to its existence. Contracts are often abandoned when profits at private hospitals and diagnostic hubs are too low. Staff trained by the NHS are poached by private hospitals, which often have no intensive care provision, requiring the NHS to rescue patients with post-operative problems.

Other under-funding consequences include NHS dentistry, with people now resorting to pulling out their own teeth; the transfer of some GP tasks to local pharmacies when many are being forced to close; and the increased use of lower-qualified physician and nursing

Perhaps most insidious is the way our health data is used. Patient confidentiality has always been paramount and medical records should not be shared without our consent. After the last data grab attempt several years ago, patients were able to opt out. Regardless, the government has allowed the private sector to exploit its failure to invest in the digital technology needed to manage the largest health data set in the world.

Despite our medical records being private and sensitive, a £480million contract has already been awarded to Palantir, an American company known for spying and battle technology. How is this appropriate, how can they be trusted with our data, and can we still opt out? Who knows? This cannot go on! The time for change is now.

Our local campaign group, Defend Enfield NHS, strongly urges the next government, of whichever persuasion, to remember that 80% of the population now support a publicly-funded NHS as the most cost-effective type of healthcare system. It needs to address the following requirements, based on principles set out by national campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, to achieve a strong NHS, a healthy society and a healthy economy:

  • An end to private involvement in the NHS
  • Funding to match comparable economies;
  • Restoring pay, safe staffing levels and working conditions;
  • Ending the decline in life expectancy, the first for 100 years;
  • Restoring our NHS to its former glory.

For more information about Defend Enfield NHS and to get involved:
[email protected]

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