Conference season is here, and Brexit will dominate. But none of the gritty policy questions have gone away. Prospect asked politicians to set out what they have to say on the practical issues—here, we tackle the NHSby Jay Elwes , Jonathan Ashworth / September 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
The money question
Jay Elwes Executive Editor of Prospect
The Conservatives have a new, young, thrusting health Secretary: Matthew Hancock, the first Secretary of State in history to have his own eponymous app. He cuts a different figure to his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, who lasted longer in the job than anyone in history. Hancock has set out plans for a major NHS tech upgrade. He’s also bringing out an NHS app, where patients can book appointments, order prescriptions and so on. And £200m is going into new medical technological innovation centres.
He has made it clear he wants increased funding for the NHS. And that last point is really the clincher. The NHS needs more money and will continue to need ever more. Where is that cash going to come from? Jon Ashworth complains below that austerity has squeezed health services—even if that is so, Britain will spend £125bn on the NHS this year, hardly a stingy amount and that figure will continue to rise. Is the answer a hypothecated tax, perhaps? A charging system for appointments? So far Labour has failed to give an answer to the long-term funding question.
Hancock thinks technology will make a difference, and it will. But the hard question of funding can’t be answered by an app.
Stockpiling medicine because of Brexit? That wasn’t on the side of a bus
Jonathan Ashworth Labour MP for Leicester South, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
It seems almost daily we read of the dire straits our NHS and the impact that financial pressures, neglect and ministerial incompetence are having on patients. Last year, half of maternity wards closed their doors to expectant mothers because they could not provide safe care.
Meanwhile the waiting list for operations is at 4.3m. Treatment is supposed to be guaranteed within 18 weeks by the NHS Constitution. After eight years, NHS management say the standard can no longer be met while health ministers hint they want it downgraded. The consequence is a steep rise in those going private.
A&E departments are regularly in crisis—last winter was one of the worst we’ve seen. Over 185,000 vulnerable and elderly patients waited in ambulances in the cold for over 30 minutes to be admitted to emergency departments.