How to solve the health crisis. Leave us alone.

Dear Messrs Cameron, Osbourne and Hunt,

You may have noticed the NHS is doing pretty badly lately; funding is at a record low, waiting times are at a record high, and morale across the service is at rock bottom.

You all made some silly promises about money- that’s okay, we all say things we don’t mean sometimes. You perhaps got a little confused and said that you were committing “half a trillion” pounds to the NHS over this parliament- which is simply the current flat yearly budget (~£100 billion) x 5 years. You said this was ‘the most amount of money ever given to the NHS’, but you might remember every successive government since 1948 could have said the same- it’s called health inflation.

You may have forgotten about that when you said you were ‘committing 10 billion‘ pounds ‘extra’ to the NHS, to fund the NHS ‘own’ plan. Except it wasn’t the NHS own plan– it was yours, and it’s not nearly enough even to keep the lights on.

Everyone’s a critic eh? It’s not nice when people say you’ve done a bad job, so I can fully appreciate why you asked hospital accountants to hide the debts under their carpets, and told hospital managers to pay for less nurses and doctors last year. I can feel your annoyance when hospitals decided that wasn’t safe, and had to hire lots more agency staff to fill the gaps. You said some silly things blaming this on agency fees, but that’s okay, 80% of the cost of this was the gaps themselves, and you won’t make that mistake again next time will you? Will you?!

You’ve said some funny things about the health service. You’ve said you want it to be the ‘safest health care system in the world‘, but I think you also want it to be the cheapest in the industrialized world? I picked up a few bits for you to read- might help. This one shows increased funding improved outcomes in healthcare. This one shows big reorganizations in healthcare don’t work at all.

You’ve said some things which, I think, aren’t true. I do hope I’m wrong. You said you were committed to keeping the NHS public – but Virgin just bought huge swathes of services, and private company contracts increased 500% this year. You have neglected to mention this, but that’s okay – government is busy work, and not everything can be in every speech. Some people might not mind NHS privatisation, but I do think you should let them know.

You’ve handled the junior doctor contract rather badly. I don’t think it’s unfair to say so. 98% of ballotted doctors voting for strike action, the first doctors strike since 1970, the first ever emergency walk out in NHS history, record levels of dispersal, record low morale. Can I make some suggestions? Have you thought about just leaving them alone?

Since 2006 they have had a £6000 one off pay cut, then a further cumulative 25% pay loss while working in the busiest and least funded decade in NHS history. But no one really complained, bar a half-hearted effort in 2012. I don’t think this is about money, but understand the context.

Doctors conditions are already poor and retention is already a problem. Record levels of doctors leave training after two years, vacancies and rota gaps have increased 60% in two years, and 1/3 GP training posts and  50% of year 3/4 A&E registrars resigning.

So what’s the hurry? Do correct me if I’m wrong, but if contract changes are cost neutral, but could threaten recruitment and retention of staff at a time when the NHS is under incredible pressure, and doctors say is categorically less safe then current conditions, one has to ask, why bother? Why not talk for another year, rather than strikes and strikes, and resignations. Not to mention the reversal of all equality workplace gains in the last decade. Mr Hunt wanted ‘certainty’ in the health service- but I cannot imagine a more uncertain time.

Why not just leave us alone? It’s not too wild an idea. You might say the BMA asked for contract negotiations and therefore the contract must change. This is like inviting your friend for tea, punching them in the face repeatedly and then wondering why they wanted to leave. You can’t force them to keep having tea at your house, and if tea isn’t essential, then why would you?

It might hurt your feelings a little bit, but that’s okay. We all have little tiffs, we all make mistakes. No need to be too proud about it. After all, why would you want to wreck a whole health service just to save face?

It must be a tricky job, being in charge of everything. Why don’t we just sit and talk for a bit, about how we might all make the NHS better?

Unless of course that’s not what you want at all. Unless you have decided that with four years of government, a weak opposition, and deep pockets controlling >50% media and the BBC, you might decide to ram through as much toxic and undemocratic policy as you possibly can. Kamikaze politics, with a hope some strong PR spin at the end will still save the next election? So why not ram through massive NHS-reorganisation and sell off, privatise the schools and the land registry, cut disability benefits and cut corporate tax, cut funding to the opposing party and turn the BBC into state-run television. Why not in fact trample the entire fabric of democracy, safe in the knowledge that the public are too apathetic to offer any significant opposition?

You are leaving them few choices Messrs Cameron, Osbourne and Hunt. Strike or resign. Perhaps it’s #timetolisten? Or better yet, just leave them alone.


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