MANY of you have expressed concerns regarding government changes to the NHS and rightly so because it’s something we need to work well at our most vulnerable times in life, and it’s something we treasure as a country, as well as being an institution we should be proud of.
You may know the government called a halt to the proposed reforms in order to listen to specialists in the Health Service, patients and others who had expressed disquiet.
In my view, the ‘listening exercise’ has borne fruit. Concerns that the plans were being too rushed, that there would be ‘privatisation by the back door’, and that accountability for the NHS was going to be devolved from government have all been addressed.
That’s good news but that doesn’t mean we’re going to return to some idyllic vision of the past, where everything was rosy, every treatment was first class and there were no waiting lists. That time never existed and the challenges facing our NHS are greater today then they have ever been.
The NHS has become administratively very top heavy with 40 per cent increases in administration over the last decade, and the 4 per cent administration cuts are going to hurt. But these are changes that really are necessary in order for the NHS to survive and prosper. We are living longer, which is great, but it means we will need more and more care towards the end of our lives. An ageing population means fewer people of working age to pay for the service which costs more and more just to stand still. And standing still is not an option.
So changes will still be radical. But there are many good things in the Health and Social Care Bill which will help. Services will be more joined up with social care and health working together to keep us healthier in our own homes instead of what is often and endless cycle of hospital, inadequate planning and care at home, then back to hospital again.
The NHS will look different in future. But I have every hope that the difference will mean better and more responsive care for us and our loved ones. It’s OUR NHS, free at the point of delivery, paid for out of general taxation and based on need and not ability to pay. And that’s how it will stay.