The crisis that now engulfs the NHS has been caused by political decisions. Deliberate underfunding, cuts, and the privatisation of services have all had a crippling effect on NHS morale and efficiency. Dedicated staff are frustrated because they cannot deliver proper care to their patients. Social care budgets have been slashed (33% since 2010) which has placed an additional burden on the NHS which has had a severe effect on its ability to function efficiently. Imposing contracts on junior doctors and removing student nurses' bursaries has also had a hugely demotivating effect.
The government says it is delivering record, historic NHS funding. This is a lie. The average annual increase the NHS has received since 1948 is around 4%. Under the Blair/Brown governments, it was 6%. Over the past nine years of Conservative governments, the annual increase has been just over 1%. It has been the most catastrophic funding squeeze the NHS has ever known. The amount being promised (and it may not happen) is not historic, it's 3.4%, which is lower than the NHS average since 1948, and takes no account of the damage caused by nine years of deliberate underfunding.
The British people have a right to expect an efficient, properly funded NHS. 'Record funding' does not equate to adequate funding. We must demand a properly funded NHS. Privatisation by stealth must cease and the National Health Service restored to health.
Britain's "tax take" is 35% of GDP. In most EU countries it is 40%. The main reason why the NHS, social care and public services are in such dire straits is that we simply don't raise enough money to run them properly. NHS funding reforms are urgent.
Responsibility for the daily running of the NHS should be devolved to the regions. Regional Health Authorities should be responsible for all aspects of health care, including social care and mental health.
Compared to other OECD countries, the NHS has one of the lowest number of beds per 1,000 of the population (the UK has 2.8 per 1000, Germany has 8.2 per 1000) , with a huge shortage of doctors and nurses. Each regional health authority should be charged with ensuring hospitals in their region are adequately staffed and have sufficient beds to meet their needs.
The NHS need never be underfunded. Everybody needs to be aware of the cost of delivering good health and social care, and share the responsibility of making it cost effective and efficient. For that to happen, health care funding needs to transparent. To be truly transparent, health and social care should be a hypothecated tax. That means that the revenue raised would go directly to health and social care and not just into the general taxation pot. The tax should also be a progressive tax with the better off paying more.
The NHS has been deliberately underfunded and subjected to privatisation by stealth by the Conservative government. Much damage has been done and many people have suffered (and died) as a result.
Particular attention should be given to incorporating social care into the NHS system.
Regional Assemblies along with their Regional Health Authorities would be charged with improving general health in their respective regions. This is the best way to contain rising costs. Preventative medicine would be given top priority, and programmes to improve health education in the community would be introduced.
The Covid-19 pandemic.
The NHS was ill-prepared for the pandemic. It is very likely that there will be more pandemics in the future. Pandemic contingency planning and budgeting must be part of what the NHS does. The lessons of 2020/21 must not be forgotten.
Dental care in the UK is often difficult to access and expensive. The funding of dental care and dental practices needs to be urgently reviewed. All dental care should be free at the point of delivery.