THERESA MAY’S view that the Tories are now “the natural party of the NHS” should not pass unchallenged. Though the Prime Minister points to the new funding that her Government has made much more money available than the sums promised by Labour at the last election, her weekend newspaper article is unlikely to appease her critics.
Why? Though Labour founded the NHS, it has, for the most part, been overseen by Tory governments and the situation on the ground remains challenging – the latest example being hundreds of stroke patients from Harrogate, a town with a significant number of elderly people, having to be treated in Leeds or York during the crucial first 72 hours after they have been taken ill.
Though specialist centres do have a vital role to play, the downgrading of local hospital services across the country is viewed, by many, as ‘cuts’ and both the Government – and the NHS – have their work cut out explaining, and justifying, such policies at a time when the winter beds crisis has become an all-year phenomenon as A&E waiting times increase.
Mrs May should also note all those people who are sick and tired of party political pointscoring at a time when they want their national leaders to be working together to solve the major policy challenges of the day from NHS and social care policy to Brexit. It’s why they took such a dislike to Ed Miliband, the then Labour leader, when he vowed to “weaponise the NHS”. And it’s why they support the British Medical Association’s call today for public health prevention to be a priority, and a central focus of future NHS planning. Unless there’s a renewed focus on this policy sphere, and the importance of people taking more personal responsibility as the country faces up to its obesity epidemic, the NHS won’t be able to meet the weight of expectation under whichever party is in power.