The General Election and the future of the NHS.

My apologies for the recent lack of posts. It probably won’t surprise you to know that the timing of the election has caused me to be pretty busy

I recently recorded a podcast for the Health Foundation in which Jennifer Dixon asked me how this general election felt to me. It’s my 18th.

I grew up in a political family. My aunts and other relatives ‘ran’ a set of committee rooms near a polling station for the Labour Party in Woolwich in Southeast London.

The task required one aunt to sit at the polling station where electors went to vote and asking them for their polling number. When sufficient had been collected, the next step was me, running to another aunt in the committee room, where she would cross off the names of those that had voted from the electoral register. As the day progressed, we would get some idea of those who had and had not voted. The idea was that after 6 or 7 in the evening we would then knock up those who hadn’t voted to remind them to do so.

We had an idea of which people were likely Labour voters because in the weeks prior to the election people had ‘canvassed’ opinions and marked down the names of potential Labour voters.

My school was another polling station, so I also had a day off school (hooray!). All of this was very exciting.

I was 11.

The Labour Party lost.

In 1964 the Labour Party won. I was 16 and many of the sixth formers at my school had swung towards Labour. We went to several meetings, and learned how to heckle.

The Labour Party won.

I say all this simply because I was brought up to see elections as being really important.  We won some – we lost some (Elections so far, Played 17 Won 7 lost 10) but what was important was the voting. On election days, my family really did talk about democracy defeating fascism.

So, on July 4. VOTE.

Canvassing reports in the current election indicate that the NHS is the first or second issue in people’s minds.

We’re used to big numbers In the NHS. At election time big numbers really matter electorally. The 7 million people on waiting lists will all have relatives. Add them all together and you have a large chunk of the electorate either waiting or related to someone waiting.

The problems with the NHS are not abstract but concrete and real for many millions of people.

And yet despite low percentage satisfaction rates with the NHS, a high percentage of people still believe in its basic principles.

If, in the next five years, those millions of people are going to stick with those principles the NHS will have to deliver lower waiting times.

Back in the start of the year many of my posts were about the processes necessary to bring about large-scale change in the NHS. It will be tough hard work. I don’t mean that in some vague, abstract way. Lots of real people are going to have to motivate and lead the tough business of change.

I’ve also posted more recently on what the far right are planning in the future. Some of them want a referendum on the future of the NHS to be included in the 2029 Conservative Manifesto. They plan to achieve this as a consequence of their expectation that the next five years of the NHS will fail to provide a better service for those millions than it does at the moment.

They believe (and they may well be right) that if, in 5 years’ time, another Government has failed to improve real access for millions of people, public belief in the founding principles of the NHS will have diminished sufficiently to give them a chance of winning the argument for abolishing the NHS in a referendum.

On the other hand if, In the next five years, the NHS delivers shorter waits for all its services, there will be no referendum and support for its founding principle will remain strong.

If the NHS, together with the next Government, fails to deliver better service popular support for the NHS will be at risk, and a future referendum could go against it.

So, as I say. VOTE!

But after the voting is over we will all have to buckle down to several years of the really hard work of NHS and partnership change.

Writing this blog over the years has been a lot of fun but I’m afraid this will be my last post.

As Tony Blair said in 1997.

On July 5 the time has come for doing.

2 Replies to “The General Election and the future of the NHS.”

  1. Paul, I have enjoyed the blog – the warmth of your writing and the rigour of your thinking – so I hope that you will still get time in the future to keep in contact with your readership and send us occasional updates from the world of doing. All best, Stephen Collier

  2. Paul

    I am sorry to see your posts finish but suspect we will hear from you in other, important, guises. It would be great to have someone of your experience and integrity in the right places.

    You are right that access to services must be resolved but the new (I assume Labour) government must also ensure policy is more comprehensive than the Blair government’s. Waiting times and ED delays and pressures are, in part, a consequence of increased access and insufficient capacity to then provide ongoing treatment and care and appropriate discharge or next stage services in health and social care.

    Good luck

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