COMPARE and contrast today’s toxic debate over NHS winter pressures with the Tory party’s measured response in 2009 when the then Labour government was struggling to deal with a flu outbreak.
The response of Andrew Lansley, the then Shadow Health Secretary, was sympathetic. Now Labour’s outright hostility is threatening to make it harder to bring about any agreement.
As Theresa May admitted prior to a Cabinet reshuffle that saw social care added to Jeremy Hunt’s health remit, the NHS is not perfect and more needs to done.
She’s not alone – politicians, patients and medical practitioners are united in the belief that health and care policy needs to be overhauled to meet the demands of an ageing society – and the Tory party’s election manifesto mauling on this issue must not stand in the way of lasting reform.
The fact that millions of pounds were spent last summer bringing extra hospital beds back into use suggests that there’s no slack in the system at supposedly quieter times of the year, and this is reflected by the continued deterioration in A&E waiting times.
Yet, as NHS trusts resort to extreme measures to meet demand, what’s going to happen next? Are they going to be punished for failing to meet financial targets – or will the cost be added to debts that are already unsustainable in some areas?
Given private businesses would have called in the administrators if they’d accumulated the debts that are crippling some hospitals, perhaps there’s a case for looking to establish whether it is cheaper in the long run to write off these costs so the 70th anniversary of the NHS can be marked with a fresh start when it comes to health and social care policy.
Nothing should be ruled out – the fear is nothing will be ruled in unless the NHS is prescribed more consensus and less rancour.