Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: conservatives

The NHS is not safe in anyone’s hands.

The NHS is in crisis. It’s probably been in crisis since it was founded in July 1948. It will be in crisis no matter how much money you throw at it or who runs it. It doesn’t matter which political party comes up with yet more policy or politics on the NHS or who changes it or who blames the other for what they did. Politics has put the NHS in crisis. They are all at fault. They are all to blame. To blame each other is naive and utterly insulting to us, the voter.

The most naive part of the NHS was the founder himself. Bevan’s devastating mistake was not to have the foresight to factor in the likelihood that medical advances and an ever progressive medical profession would render a health service free at the point of need impossible to deliver. If you marry medical advances and science to an NHS promised in our low taxation economy, as pledged by our two principal political parties, the NHS as promised is, frankly, little more than a big fat lie. It just can’t be done and all political parties should come clean and tell us the hard truth. Neither Labour or the Conservatives will give the NHS the £8bn it has asked for.

Let’s deal with the basic principle of the NHS being free at the point of need. This is a worthy aspiration and it is achievable, if it’s not confused with free at the point of want. ‘Need’ really means this: if you are fat and want a gastric band because you want to be thin then you pay for it. You can be treated for any mental health issues that make you eat excessively so you stop eating so much. But it is for you get off your arse, reduce your food intake and exercise. It’s not the state’s job to make you thin, that is down to you.

An NHS free at the point of need is about the heart attack, the broken leg, a stroke or Ebola. It is not for want as in ‘I want a nicer nose as my nose is to big’. But what about the heart attack due to smoking and drinking or poor diet or lack of exercise? That is why *in a world where the NHS is free at genuine ‘need’* you must pay more tax to fund your *own* failings in you not looking after you. You either pay more tax under they current system or you don’t get anything free at the point of *immediate* need, let alone at the point of want.

What of the future of the NHS? As it is now it can’t survive? There isn’t the money or the resource to deal with an ageing population who can be kept alive thanks to costly medical science and its continued advances. It is medical science that defies nature and keeps us going long after nature should have taken us.

So here is my prescription for an NHS worthy of all.

1. All political parties need to stop blaming each other for the NHS in crisis. They have all caused it and they have failed us by not being honest in what is needed. In simple terms, you and I need to pay more tax for the NHS to work. We need to pay for a GP appointment, much like those who can pay for the dentist and optician now. The same exemptions would be applicable. If we don’t turn up to the appointment we must to be fined £10 before we can see a doctor again. Personal responsibility starts with all of us treating the NHS with respect and responsibility.

2. We need be more responsible for our own health and not expect the NHS to pay for what we knowingly do to harm our health. If you want to smoke, drink to excess, go rock climbing, skiing, caving, ride a horse, surf and so on then you need to take out some insurance to protect you if you come to some harm. Don’t expect us all to pay for your choices.

3. It is a bit late for many of us but our children need to be educated about health and wellbeing at school, as part of physical education. They need to be taught how to exercise throughout life, what to eat, first-aid and life-saving, how the body functions and how to take care of it. In a generation, through education, we may have a healthier society than we have now. *If we achieved that,* they *might even* be fortunate to pay less for an NHS free at the point of need.

4. The current NHS needs to be split into the following basic groups. Acute Care, Chronic Care, Social Care and Elder Care. You will fall into one or more of these categories and will be treated accordingly.

5. Pharmacies need to be empowered to deal with sniffles and basic ailments with the power to prescribe and, if needed, refer accordingly.

6. GP’s need to be open 7 days a week, 9am to 7pm. Outside these times you wait or if it really is an emergency you go to A and E. This is THE last port of call on the NHS not the first stop in our ‘I want it sorted now’ society of today.

7. 111 must be scrapped. Like NHS Direct before it, it is a fundamentally flawed idea, thought up by a bunch of Whitehall wonks who didn’t think it through. If you’re ill you need to speak to someone medically trained, not a call handler.

8. Most importantly, we all need to be educated to take responsibility for our own health. It’s not the government’s job to make you better, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to keep you well in the first place. If you take risks or make choices that impact on your health then you must be responsible for the consequences, regardless of income or social standing. Being rich or being poor is no excuse for poor health.

Being fit and well is all of our individual responsibility. Paying tax for those who are genuinely unable to be fit and well in our society, so they can be cared for properly, is the mark of a civilised society. Tax is the price of civilisation. We all have a responsibility to do all we should to look after ourselves in the first place so the NHS is only used when we really need it.

Finally, as this is an election year, perhaps our politicians can be honest about the NHS, its cost, its failures and its future rather than blaming each other for their collective failings since its inception back in 1948. That would be start to saving the NHS for all of us.

So, that’s that then?

It’s Christmas time and there’s no reason to be afraid? Maybe this is the very essence of what we have all enjoyed in the last few days? This time of year is fraught with fear, danger and emotional hurdles to overcome. Have you bought the right present, have you made the right choices for food, have you bought enough, drank enough, eaten enough or eaten too much?

Christmas is a time for very few answers. This time of year is the real balance between need and want, and want seems to have the balance tipped to its favour. We have all just gone through a period of want, from wanting it to be the best Christmas ever to wanting ‘the’ present and probably having to put on the ‘you shouldn’t have’ face on when you really meant ‘why did you?’.

We are now all the other side of this commercial and financial excess. The festive payday reckoning will come for us all in January. We can all take comfort or face the fear from the reality of our own personal debt. And if we didn’t get what we really wanted on the big day, we can always go and buy it at a huge discount in the sales. This is assuming you haven’t already done so on-line on Christmas day. Jesus would be so proud.

It is hard to know what this ‘most wonderful’ time of year really means? Family plays a huge part in its definition and it did for me. Spending time with mine was a real gift tainted with sadness and a good dash of hope. Yet there was something lacking, something missing, something not there. As I was sitting watching the joy of my two youngest children opening their gifts while I was stuffing discarded wrapping paper into a bin bag, I wondered what they were really thinking. Do they want all their gifts, let alone need them? Is the paper that I am ‘recycling’ only going to cover more gifts next year, which will be enjoyed all to briefly before being put on a shelf or in a cupboard as we all move on into another new year? Probably.

The opened gift in the cupboard is a sad indictment on our way of life. It is proof that we are driven by an economy that requires us to keep buying stuff to keep the ball rolling and our economic world spinning, whether we have the actual money or not. Real incomes have fallen in the last five-year and despite the personal injection of over £10 billion PPI cash in to many pockets, paid back to us by banks who took it from us illegally in the first place under Labours ‘light touch’ financial regulation, the current government needs us to spend this and more or we will economically die. Our principal political leaders and their party’s need us to continue to want and not to think too hard about what we need.

In 2015 we all face a number of choices ranging from who we pay off first to who will form the next government and lead us for the next five years. Each party will claim they have a plan for our financial security, to give us more of ‘our money’ in our pockets so we can shop and buy stuff. Yet they will all talk about cuts and belt-tightening. They are all guilty of a basic hypocrisy, suggesting it’s not you but someone else and they are on your side. In reality it is you who must be on your side first and foremost by taking responsibility.

We all need to work out the difference between want and need. Maybe, regardless of who gets their hand on the tiller of power next May, we can all give our loved ones what they need next year and want to do it too.

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