Published 10th October 2021
Our precious NHS, 73 years in the making is now a hungry old dinosaur with chronic morbid obesity. The more money it eats, the greater its capacity to eat increases and the more cash it seeks to sate it.
It seems a lifetime ago that the great British public were being beseeched to clap for our carers (for doing their jobs) every Thursday night as the pandemic stretched the resources of one of the world’s largest Employers to beyond breaking point. Some viewed this as laudable, “the least we can do” (whilst locked in our homes), others saw it as virtue signalling. Either way, it continued for 10 weeks, during which time the indirect impact of lockdowns began to take hold.
COVID-19 turned the NHS into the National Covid Service and as befits this behemoth it is only just beginning to pivot back to something resembling its pre-pandemic self (although try getting a face to face appointment with your GP to dispel the theory that the NHS is “back”).
135,000 death certificates have COVID-19 listed as one of the causes of death. This bald number ignores the disproportionate skewing towards the over 70s and will pale by comparison with those who succumb to the effects of devastating lockdowns, including late diagnosed cancer victims, heart disease and a plethora of other conditions including suicides resulting from diminished mental health.
As the husband of a chronically ill NHS frequent flyer, under multiple Doctors at multiple hospitals, I have first hand experience of how disjointed the NHS remains.
No matter how much money is thrown at the NHS (now 4 in every 10 pounds of government spending plus some additional pandemic recovery funds to tackle waiting lists estimated at up to 13,000,000 for routine operations), like Veruca Salt, it is never enough.
Be in no doubt that many on the frontline do a great job of delivering surgical excellence and in the case of nurses, genuine care. In the interests of balance though, it does not take forensic examination to see there is a pandemic of waste, excessive bureaucracy and tin ears in the management and deployment of public funds.
The biggest single complaint of those working in the NHS is that they are not listened to. The command and control “top down” management approach survives blue and red hued parliamentary majorities and leads to inefficiency on a Soviet scale.
The latest wheeze is Diversity Managers, a nebulous role if ever there was one, overpaid at best, pure waste at worst. Given the UK population is 86% white and 93% heterosexual, minorities are not exactly underrepresented.
Royal College of Nursing initial demands in 2020 for a 15% pay rise were not only opportunistic but evidence that the death of Trade Unionism is grossly exaggerated. The current demand is around 12% but even replacing Matt Hapless (sorry Hancock) with Sajid Javid has yet to yield a magic money tree for that little bit extra.
Further evidence of the night of the unions is that a hardcore minority of patient facing NHS staff have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19, yet remain in post. Contrast that with care home workers who face a “no jab, no job” ultimatum just in time for the winter in a sector with over 40,000 vacancies.
I am not denying that care home deaths from COVID-19 in the first few months of the pandemic were tragic and horrific in number in equal measure. One shareholder in a care home was kind enough to share with me that the CEO of his business refused point blank to receive patients back in their facilities without evidence of negative COVID status.
Others were clearly not so able to push back against the mass emptying of hospital beds by NHS managers with disastrous results.
40 new NHS Chief Executives were recently advertised for with salaries of up to £270,000. In context, that is more than 3 times an MP’s salary and more than comparable with private sector peers.
All of which segues neatly into the dreaded privatisation word. The principle of the NHS being free at the point of need remains undiminished and I very much doubt most of the population care one jot about whether the person in front of them (say their GP) in their hour of need is a direct employee or a private sector service provider contracted in.
The left’s screams over the potential for privatisation of the NHS as part of a trade deal with the US are misdirected and hollow, not least given the expansion of private sector involvement in the NHS under Blair and Brown in their time at 10 Downing Street.
Under Tory led coalitions and majority governments alike, from Lansley through Hunt to Hancock and now Javid, reform is spoken of regularly but a bit like the planning system for housing, often ill conceived and lacking long-term thinking (naturally disincentivised by governments whose terms will never exceed 5 years).
Yet, with a heavy heart and with the turning circle of an oil tanker, it will take at least a decade, a strategic review and action plan to reform the NHS, to make it fit and relevant for the 2030s and beyond is not only desirable but essential.
Even this pseudo Conservative government which has its tanks entrenched in neo-socialism cannot continue to throw ever increasing billions at an NHS that is no longer fit for purpose on so many levels.
The purpose of this particular piece is to start the process of lobbying for wholesale reform. It is possible and it is needed. Now.
Elective surgery for purely cosmetic reasons is not the domain of taxpayers money.
Expanding NHS capacity through greater involvement of the private sector is not privatisation now matter how much Jon Ashworth bleats that it is.
There can be no sacred cows when this fatted calf is almost too big to slaughter. I make no apologies for making this impassioned plea to all interested parties: reform the NHS before it eats itself. That is the real obesity crisis.
© justchrisdavies 2021