The Election and the NHS: promises, promises

21/04/2015  -  11.05

Jim Bethel: Senior Lecturer in Emergency Care

Everyone seems to love the NHS at election time: from a much maligned organisation between 2010 and 2015 – consider the Mid-Staffs crisis and the cruelty dished out at Winterbourne view – to a cherished national institution now. 

Even Nigel Farage has been forced to backtrack from previously firmly held views on the privatisation of healthcare services by the uproar created when he expressed such views. The NHS would seem, temporarily at least, to be like the Queen and Alan Bennett- beyond reproach, almost untouchable.

The devil, as always, is in the detail: having operated on a 9-5 working week basis for the last 66 years David Cameron has promised a 24/7 NHS within the next 5 years. Quite how he will win over the truculent members of the Royal Colleges of Medicine in order that they surrender their Sunday mornings on the golf course in the best interests of their patients is not clear. I wish him well – there is much evidence, even within the West Midlands region, that morbidity and mortality are unacceptably high at night-time and weekends because of a lack of senior expertise in hospitals. The NHS is not always, unfortunately, cherished by those who work for it.

Additionally Nigel Farage is to ‘winnow out’ doctors and nurses not meeting a prescribed standard of English in the NHS. Mr Farage does not appear to be aware of the fact that migrants wishing to work in the NHS already have to pass an English language assessment test. If successful then presumably under UKIP there would be less foreign born NHS staff available to treat the vast hordes of ‘health tourists’ he cited as being the main problem for the service on the recent BBC debate