I like Mrs May and think she has a tough job, but on this matter I do not believe her, and think the valiant people campaigning all over the country to save the NHS are right not to believe her. While it is true that £ for £, government spending has gone up every year since the NHS was founded, it's also true that there IS a long-term plan to reduce, scale down, privatize and possibly sell off the NHS entirely.
In a previous blog I suggested a few ideas and here are some more.
The NHS budget is well over £100 billion per year, so scrimping a few million here and there is not going to be enough to save it. Doctors, nurses and other staff are being told to make efficiency savings. That should surely be the responsibility of their notoriously overpaid managers and administrators? If it were up to me, I would take a look at cutting some of these management jobs, along with the diversity officers, assistant diversity officers, carbon reduction advisers and so on who are often paid far more than nurses.
Yes, we are short of doctors. Hospitals such as the Horton claim they are unable to fill posts. It is certainly true that one in eight GP posts are unfilled. The NHS is recruiting doctors from abroad and paying £120,000 recruitment fee to an agency for each doctor. Yet we are not prepared to pay university fees and subsistence grants to our OWN sons and daughters to train as doctors here in the UK. University fees are £9,000 per year and medical students, who have to study to six years minimum, are faced with a huge debt on leaving. This policy must change. We must bring back free medical training in this country for all who are British citizens and willing to work here afterwards. That is not saying we should be unfriendly or unwelcoming to foreign doctors - we should just be less reliant on them and we should certainly not have to pay to recruit them from abroad.
I believe that the Christian ethos in schools has an important part to play. Countless doctors and nurses in past generations were inspired to follow their vocation because Jesus was a healer, and they tried to follow his example. Bring this ethos back in the classroom. Tell children about high ideals instead of some of the rubbish they are taught nowadays.
Then we should look at the way that we source medications. Pharmaceutical companies make vast profits from the NHS which has no choice about buying a new drug if the less expensive older one for the same condition is withdrawn. When we leave the EU we will no longer be compelled to sell the drugs we produce abroad when we need them here - but what about setting up the manufacture of medications by the NHS itself, independently? There are plenty of drugs out of patent and opportunity to research rival ones. Old drugs could and should be re-licenced if it is in the interest of patients to do so.
Even that is not really drastic enough. We need to throw off the yoke of PFI. The Private Finance Initiative system has created an NHS crippled by debts of £222 billion. We are paying £ billions in interest every year on hospital buildings, and NHS Trust contracts often include unreasonable maintenance charges that are a sheer waste of public money. We pay more for PFI deals than the total wages of all midwives put together. Far more!
Basically, a PFI is like a mortgage that the government takes out on behalf of the public. The average annual cost of meeting the terms of the UK’s PFI contracts will be more than £10bn over the next decade.
And the cost of servicing PFIs is growing. Last year, it rose by £5bn. It could rise further, with inflation. The upward creep is the price taxpayers’ pay for a financing system which allows private firms to profit from investing in infrastructure.
Both Labour and Tory governments have allowed this to happen, and both parties blame each other. What I would like to see is some clever lawyers finding a way OUT of these contracts, and declaring them unfair and unenforceable. Most people did not understand what was happening when they were introduced, and most of the cost will be born by our children and grandchildren, who were certainly never consulted. Why don't the law lords who spend so much time and energy blocking Brexit do something useful for a change and find some convenient way of extricating us from a system that is unjust, onerous and exploitative?
At the very least, they should find some way to re-negotiate these contracts, in the same way as a deeply indebted individual can negotiate with creditors to reduce payments and extend time-limits. Unless we take some steps as drastic as this, there seems little hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to rely on a NHS that is still "free at the point of use".