The Times recently carried the headline ‘NHS reforms our worst mistake, Tories admit’. The story goes on to report that ‘Senior Tories have admitted that reorganising the NHS was the biggest mistake they have made in government. David Cameron did not understand the controversial reforms and George Osborne regrets not having prevented what Downing Street officials call a “huge strategic error”.’ One Downing Street insider described the reforms as “unintelligible gobbledegook”.
Thus, this Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government wasted £3 billion and caused chaos with a damaging NHS reorganisation that David Cameron promised wouldn’t happen, and that has led to over 4,000 NHS staff being laid off and then rehired, many on six-figure salaries. And these reforms put private profits before patient care, and have tied hospitals up in competition law.
Well, I always knew that David Cameron couldn’t be trusted with our National Health Service. Since his promise to protect the NHS, it’s getting harder to see a GP, there’s a crisis in Accident & Emergency and waiting lists are going up. And, this week, for the first time in more than 30 years, we see nurses, midwives and other professional health staff taking industrial action.
There is a crisis in A&E. In the last 12 months, almost a million people have waited more than four hours to be seen; more people are having to wait on trolleys before being admitted; and more people are being kept in ambulance queues outside A&E. After years of falling waiting lists, because of the investment made in the first decade of this century, waiting lists for treatment are growing again. They’re now at their highest level for five years. This is being compounded by cuts to elderly care that end up with more older people in A&E and make it harder for them to get the care they need at home.
David Cameron scrapped Labour’s guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours – and now 60 per cent of patients report that they can’t get an appointment to see their GP within two days. But it’s not just speed which is the problem. The latest GP patient survey shows that the proportion of people who can’t regularly see their preferred GP has risen from 34% in 2012 to 39% in 2014 – an increase of 1.2 million people. When will Cameron understand that it’s not just the speed of access declining under this Government but it’s continuity of care too? And, in many parts of the country, we now see treatments like cataract and knee operations being rationed which is particularly hitting the well-being of older citizens.
Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have been Cameron’s little helpers in undermining people’s experience of and trust in our NHS. And what is UKIP’s answer to these challenges? To introduce a charge – we don’t know whether it would be £15 or £25 – to be paid by everyone each time they visit their GP or hospital.
Labour rescued the NHS IN 1997 after years of Tory neglect before. We’ll clearly have to do it again from 2015.