Denise Robertson: My prescription for the NHS

Journal columnist and TV personality Denise Robertson on her 12-point plan to rescue the NHS from both the main parties

Yui Mok/PA Wire An NHS logo
An NHS logo

The major parties jostle to claim the NHS will be safer with them. Neither of them sounds credible.

Andy Burnham, Labour’s health spokesman, who I respect, was nevertheless made to look silly when he claimed that he would save the NHS from Tory privatisation.

Newsnight produced a graph which showed that most of the outsourcing occurred during the government in which he was a minister.

Labour negotiated the GP contract, which reduced patients’ access to their doctor, and axed in-house training for nurses, which led to 80,000 British would-be nurses being turned away last year.

Tory Andrew Lansley’s ‘reform’ of the NHS has brought it to its knees and David Cameron tries hard to pretend that A and E is not imploding.

All both parties do is promise to throw money into the bottomless pit the NHS has become. I believe sensible reform can still maintain the free-at-the-point-of-delivery service we all value. Here’s what I’d do.

1. Put 1p on Income Tax only long enough to buy out the PFI schemes which are bleeding the NHS dry.

2. Renegotiate the GP contract to give patients more access.

3. Reinstate in-house nursing training, keeping degree courses for those who want them. Second and third year nurses on wards would do away with the need for so many expensive agency nurses and recruiting from abroad. Establish a route for senior nurses to qualify as doctors.

4. Triage A and E, turning away anyone who can be treated by GP, pharmacy etc.

5. Establish drunk tanks, medically staffed, and bill everyone who uses them £100.

6. Establish cottage hospitals to take bed-blockers out of high-dependency wards.

7. Recruit more district nurses and health visitors.

8. Put more resources into treating mental health.

9. Reduce form filling to the minimum.

10. Slash management by 40/50% and give control back to senior staff.

11. Revise the ludicrous scale of dental charges, which is unfair to dentists.

12. Ban political parties from using the NHS as a pawn in the political game. It deserves better.

:: Last week I interviewed a remarkable woman, 91-year-old Iby Knill. S

he had a comfortable life until the Germans annexed Czechoslovkia. Her Jewish family lost both home and business,

Jewish people had to wear a yellow star and were not allowed to sit down on public transport.

The Nazis were rounding up young Jewish girls to act as prostitutes for German troops so Iby fled to Hungary, and found herself in the resistance, helping escaping British pilots.

Eventually she was captured and sent to Auschwitz.

“When we arrived, men in striped pyjamas opened the doors and told us to leave the sick, the old and the children. They were gassed. Men and women were separated.

We were told to strip, had hair shaved off all over and were then pushed into showers. Any gold teeth were pulled out with pliers”. T

he ink ran out as Iby queued to have her number tattooed and it never happened. Three times a day everyone was counted. This could take hours. If you swayed or stumbled you were taken to the gas chambers.

One day they were given better clothes and surroundings. A representative of the Pope was visiting. Iby told him in Latin ‘do not believe what you see’. He gave no sign of understanding.

As the Allies drew near the women were sent on a forced march to Bergen-Belsen. Those lagging behind were shot. And then, after days of walking, American tanks appeared. They were free.

Iby married a British Officer but for 50 years she kept her past a secret. It was only after her husband’s death that she began to record her history.You can read it in her autobiography, ‘Woman without a Number’, or go to her website - . She says ‘We have to learn from history; if we don’t, future generations will make the same mistakes.’

:: I imagine Heaven is like Sunday mornings . . . no phone ringing, pot of tea, skeleton crossword and the Archers’ Omnibus on the radio.

Except that the everyday story of country folk grows grimmer by the hour.

It all started when poor Nigel fell off a roof for no other crime than being posh. Now we have sinister Rob who lives with pain in the neck Helen and denies he is the father of his estranged wife’s baby.

He keeps cows locked in a factory and never lets them see the light of day.

An affair with his boss, Elizabeth Archer, means Roy Tucker is estranged from his wife, Tom Archer has jilted Kirsty at the altar and David and Ruth Archer are planning to sell Brookfield for millions and move to the North East. Oh, and Tony Archer is hospitalised after being gored by the bull he wouldn’t have bought except his wicked son, Tom….yes the jilter….edged him out and Lilian Archer’s husband, Matt, has run away to Costa Rica with all her money.

I could go on! Bring back the gentle lowing of the herd, buttercups and hawthorn hedges and Archers so upright it hurts. The present lot are too dissolute by half.

:: I’m sad that Dippy the dinosaur is to vanish from the British Museum’s Great Hall.

To take a child there and hear a swift intake of breath as their eyes rose upwards to that magnificent head was one of life’s pleasures.

If it’s true that it may come to my doorstep I’ll be first in the queue.


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