The Labour Party are keen to make the NHS the number one issue in the 2015 General Election campaign. Shots have already been fired, mainly at UKIP, attacking us for policies that we do not have.
I shouldn’t have to repeat, ad nauseum, that UKIP don’t intend to privatise the NHS. We do, of course, intend to make some changes. There are far too many managers in the top-heavy structure.
Funding should be prioritised towards medical staff. Our NHS should be a national health service, not an international health service – we should make sure that ‘health tourism’ is eliminated, so that people who haven’t paid taxes into our system can’t come into the UK for the main purpose of receiving NHS treatment free of charge.
Although the savings are relatively modest (about £2bn every year), that would be more than enough to pay for UKIP’s policy of eliminating hospital car parking charges – which comes in at around a tenth the cost of the money saved.
Dr Zoe Norris, a GP working on the front line, recently highlighted another problem that will be very familiar to anyone working in the NHS or any other public service. Medical professionals often find themselves out of their surgeries and away from treating patients, attending meetings in the local area (commissioning local services being the example given by Dr Norris, but there must be many more).
This isn’t a problem peculiar to the NHS – similar misuse of professionals’ time is found in the education system and almost any area of public spending.
Our doctors and nurses are trained in patient care; only in the most exceptional of circumstances should their work time be spent doing anything other than caring for patients (or perhaps further training to update their skills).
I don’t agree with Labour peers Lord Winston and Lord Warner, who have suggested making patients pay to visit their GP. Oh, I understand where the Labour lords are coming from – they want patients to value their appointments and make sure that doctors’ time isn’t wasted when their patients turn up.
But we all know what would happen if they got their way: those who struggle to afford it would suffer in silence, and often illnesses would get worse leading to unnecessary hospitalisations.
When my father was in hospital, the NHS staff provided world class lifesaving treatment in an emergency. Our NHS is second to none when it comes to this kind of service.
But as he recovered, the system went into slow motion. He spent a further 24 hours in hospital once fit to be released, whilst waiting for medication from the pharmacy and for a nurse to take a blood sample. A scarce resource of a hospital bed for the night was used up because of inefficiency. That’s not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing happen; other friends and family have had similar issues.
Our NHS certainly has problems, but Labour’s part-privatisation of the NHS through the Private Finance Initiative really didn’t help matters. NHS Trusts find the repayments to be a millstone around their necks, and it’s estimated that the whole thing will have cost the taxpayer at least £300bn by 2017-2018.
If you want to know what the English NHS would look like under Labour, all you have to do is look at the Welsh NHS of today. In Wales, Labour have been in power in the Welsh Assembly. Health budgets have been slashed by 8.6% in real terms, patients frequently cross the border into England for treatment and their A&E targets have not been met since 2009.
Over £1.5m per year is wasted on politically-correct non-jobs according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and some claim the mismanagement is worse even than the mid-Staffordshire scandal.
You’d think that Labour might shy away from discussions on the NHS. Instead, they perpetuate the claim that ‘Labour is the Party of the NHS’. That was true in 1948 when Aneurin Bevan set up the NHS (and some might argue that the Labour government of 1945-1950 was the last time that the Labour Party actually represented the working class) but that is no reason to suppose that it’s still true in 2014.
Parties change. But perhaps if the Labour Party had remained true to its roots, UKIP would not be on the rise in the North East today.
- Jonathan Arnott is a UKIP MEP for the North East