The NHS has been one of the UK’s greatest achievements. For 65 years it has provided a cost effective, universal health service, free at the point of need to all people irrespective of their background, circumstance or ability to pay, but it is now under greater threat than ever before.
In 2010, the Conservatives pledged not to instigate a top-down reorganisation of the NHS, but the coalition then proceeded to open up the NHS to commercialisation under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, with a third of contracts now awarded to private companies, according to the BMJ.
A US think tank recently rated the NHS as the best healthcare service in the world, when compared in terms of quality, efficiency, cost and performance with the American, Canadian, Australian, and various other European models. However, as budgets are cut and commercialisation creeps in the quality is slipping, as shown by A&E departments consistently failing to meet their waiting time targets.
At eight percent of GDP, the NHS costs British taxpayers considerably less than other comparable healthcare systems, with Germany spending 10.5%, France 11.2%, and the USA 16%, and yet political parties from across the spectrum have failed to realise its value for money.
Both the Tories and Labour have complained about management costs within a “bloated” NHS, but at 1.5% of the health budget, the NHS management is notably more efficient that the systems in France (6.8%) and the US (7%).
In this election, the Tories have made an unfunded pledge of £8 billion for the NHS, but they have made no commitments about where that money would go, and whether it would go to the NHS directly or to private firms looking to capitalise on a vulnerable and unprotected state service.
Ed Miliband has pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, but the NHS should not be politically divisive – all parties should together pledge to protect the NHS from commericlaisation and further political interference.
This is why the Descrier, along with Open Democracy, the Green Party, the National Health Action Party, Keep Our NHS Public, and 999 Call for the NHS, is calling for all party leaders to pledge to include the NHS Reinstatement Bill in the Queen’s Speech on 19th May 2015.