Ministers urged to take the politics out of the NHS
It comes after Sajid Javid, the former health secretary, called for a royal commission into the NHS, describing it as “frozen in time”.
The idea of an official inquiry into the state of the health service was yesterday rejected by Downing Street, despite calls from backbench MPs to push it through to end decades of disagreement over the health service’s future.
One Yorkshire Tory MP said: “We need to take the politics out of our NHS. We can’t just keep pretending record amounts of funding is the answer.”
Writing in The Times, Mr Javid said a “dispassionate and honest assessment” of the NHS is required to “make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years”.
He said: “No universal healthcare system is perfect, but when you compare health outcomes in the UK with similar countries, it is clear that for decades we have fallen short across successive governments.
“It’s a direct consequence of how the NHS is still structured. Since it was established in 1948, the world has significantly changed — yet much of the institution remains frozen in time.”
Highlighting Britain’s ageing population and the lingering impact of the pandemic, Mr Javid said the supply of healthcare will continue to be outstripped by soaring demand.
“All of this is at a time of record funding for the NHS,” he wrote.
“In 2000, the health budget accounted for 27 per cent of day-to-day UK public spending; next year it will hit 44 per cent, larger than the GDP of Greece.
“The entire British state is on the verge of becoming a subsidiary of the NHS.”
Mr Javid also pointed to the “politicisation” of the NHS and its future as a key factor in the health service’s present struggles.
“Set up correctly, a royal commission can be the force to help break the current deadlock,” he said, stressing it should be used to “assess what structural reforms are required and how we should be learning from other countries”.
Mr Javid added: “Now is the time for the national interest to come to the fore with a collective mandate for reform.
“To make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years, we need a royal commission.”
However, some Conservative colleagues were unimpressed with the idea, citing a need for the Government to show it is improving the NHS rather than casting around for answers.
“[It] sounds a bit of a long grass idea,” said one Yorkshire Tory, adding: “How long would it take to report? [The] election is next year and we need to be demonstrably delivering by then.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman defended the reforms being pushed through by the Government.
“There’s no plans for a royal commission or things like that. Royal commissions can take time and we think, in order to cut waiting lists, we need to act now and that’s what we’re doing,” the spokesman said.
Today the Prime Minister along with health leaders and members of the royal family will attend a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS.
It comes as new research suggests that a third of British adults have found it difficult to get the healthcare services they need through the NHS, since the pandemic began.
Polling for IPPR by YouGov found some 71 per cent of those with a life limiting health condition who experienced difficulty getting the NHS healthcare they need said this lack of access had directly undermined their wellbeing and economic prospects.
Chris Thomas, head of IPPR’s Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: “The idea that we need to change the NHS’ funding model or core principles is for the birds.
“Instead, we need to adapt it to 21st century health realities: it’s not 1948 anymore, and a reactive healthcare model focused on acute need and hospital care simply won’t work.”