Your National Health Service in 2017 #NHS

image credit: Geoff Charles [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

69 years ago this country was facing a war-weariness, an economy in disarray, the end of empire, a nation negotiating its place in the world, a need for massive house building. At that point, this country stepped-up, and took a bold and optimistic view. Not only on a whole range of social topics, but about the need for and the benefits from a National Health Service.

Stirring words from the penultimate paragraph of Simon Stevens’ speech to NHS Providers in Birmingham on November 8th.

In the speech Stevens also warned of a waiting list of 5 million patients by 2021 on current funding and called on the Government to meet the Brexit NHS promise.

Stevens also pointed out that our NHS is grossly underfunded when compared with similar economies in Europe.

Now some may say: aren’t we spending at the European average? Well, only if you think that bundling-in austerity-shrunken Greek and Portuguese health spending should help shape the benchmark for Britain. If instead you think modern Britain should look more like Germany or France or Sweden then we’re underfunding our health services by £20-30 billion a year.

Read the full text of the speech here; it only takes a couple of minutes and is well worth the time.

Who is Simon Stevens?

Simon Stevens is the Chief Executive of NHS England.

He became CEO of NHS England in 2014 after an early career in NHS management. This lead onto becoming the president of the global health division of United Health Group, a giant US private healthcare company. He also advised Tony Blair’s government where, as well as advising on a huge public reinvestment programme, he championed the use of privately-run independent sector treatment centres. Read more in this Guardian article.

According to this Guardian report, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Simon Stevens will be held personally responsible for ensuring the health service does not end up in a crisis this winter.

A winter with the prediction of the biggest flu scare for years.

No wonder Simon Stevens was telling a few home truths to Theresa May’s government in his speech last week.

Does anyone actually understand how the NHS works in the twenty first century?

Check out this graphic from the King’s Fund which attempts to summarise how the NHS (oops! sorry! NHS England) works.

You will not believe it!

Unless you work in the NHS but you probably can’t believe it either.

How can one individual be responsible for this lot (even if he is paid £189K)?

Notice in the King’s Fund video how the Secretary of State for Health aka Jeremy Hunt is so arms-length from our NHS.

I can remember a time when Government Secretaries of State were supposed to take responsibility for their department and resign if something went badly wrong!

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Jeremy Hunt blame the failure of the NHS to meet more and more of its targets on the rise in patient numbers due to our ageing population.

Yes, Jeremy. That’s right! We’re called the “baby-boomers”.

We needed more school places, more training, more jobs, more houses, more maternity services, more school places and injections for our children, and more doctors, nurses, dentists and teachers for them too.

And now Jeremy we need lots more health and social care for ourselves.

So why, Jeremy, are you so surprised? Surely, Jeremy, you knew we baby-boomers were there. Didn’t you realise we were getting older? That we’d need more health and social care. Why weren’t you and your department making preparations? Why weren’t you planning for the increasing demographic? Isn’t that what government is supposed to do? And if you have been planning, well you haven’t made a very good job of it, have you?

And that’s hardly surprising when we look at the King’s Fund graphic.

What was said at the time of the 2010 General Election?

No more top down re-organisation of the NHS!

Come on, Jeremy. Get a grip! Let’s have a Secretary of State for Health who takes responsibility for what’s going on in our NHS. Or move over for someone who will!

Thanks for reading my blog today.