Monday, January 22, 2007

Cameron turns the clock back on NHS...

Tory leader David Cameron today announced plans which would take the NHS back to endless waiting times for operations and return to a two-tier service.

He has revealed a half-baked plan to scrap the tough NHS targets for waiting times that have made real improvements over the past ten years.

The Tories have always hated the NHS - they fought tooth and nail to prevent Labour's Nye Bevan introducing it in the post-war Government led by Clem Atlee. And the NHS was almost destroyed under the Thatcher-Major era.

For eighteen years, they starved the NHS of cash, leaving too few doctors and nurses and a shortage of hospital beds, buildings, and equipment.

By the time they left office in 1997, 400,000 people were waiting for a much-needed operation, and three years waits for surgery were common.

Since then, there has been record investment in the NHS, with thousands more doctors and nurses who today perform half a million more operations a year.

Now, no-one waits more than nine months for their operation - and the waits and the biggest ever hospital building programme since 1997 means no-one The targets the Tories now want to scrap have driven down waiting times for heart and cancer patients and already saved 200,000 lives.

As well as scrapping the targets, Cameron proposes a return to GP-fundholding. This would turn the clock back to an unfair two-tier NHS.

And who has come up with this recycled Tory policy?

Step forward Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health in the years to 1997 when the Tories were finally thrown out of office.

14 comments:

Liz said...

I heard an interview with a Professor from the Kings Fund about this matter. He was reminding us that some 10 years ago we had to wait 2/3 years for many operations and this has now changed. He suggested that waiting time targets were not as necessary now as choice was available(and being extended) for patients. His argument was that if one hospital was unable to undertake a procedure quickly then individuals would go to one that would. I understand that the DofH are concerned at present that only 32% of patients are electing to exercise choice (influenced by GPs?). I think this will improve particularly as the Sunday Times reported that the DofH are setting up a website soon for people to comment initially on hospital and then GP provision.

I agree with everything you wrote Phil although the professor in question also has a point? I do not think the public would ever accept waiting times, poor provision again. The High Court would be permanently filled with medical cases!!! We now have greater access to information and are all in a better position to challenge decisions.

I was astonished to read that LHT has refused to operate on a man whose BMI was considered high.(He was not obese and it seemed like rationing to me). This is at a time when many world clinics are challenging the BMI standard (Mayo clinic the latest). Under this rationalisation, no rugby player I know would be "fit" for surgery. The rugby players' in question have high BMI numbers although they are the fittest people I know. Utter madness - I hope they are challenged.

Geoffrey G Brooking said...

I welcome Mr Cameron's announcement.

What it really means is that doctors will be freed from much of Whitehall's stifling red tape and allowed to decide where patients are treated instead of being forced to meet target after target which in Lincolnshire alone led to accusations of fiddled waiting lists.

Liz said...

Sorry Geoffrey I do not want to have doctors "decide" where I am treated. This is a matter for me as I am quite able to access information on particular hospitals and specialists. I would of course consult my GP assuming of course he is willing to assist as I may take up time which is after all his income.

Whether you like it or not targets where absolutely necessary in order to ensure that clinicians carried out the job we paid them to do. Remember the consultants paid for by the NHS who only spent a few hours carrying out NHS work? Remember the high rate of death from cancer and heart disease when people waited months/years to see a cardiac specialist? Remember the old fashioned practice when day surgery was opposed? Remember how one was treated as an outpatient - undressed and hanging around for hours - the consultants convenience not the patients. None of this is acceptable anymore - thank goodness.

There is still an ethos amongst many that the health service (I am in favour of it) is there to serve its staff . This government has tried to change the culture (as did the last Tory government) to ensure the service is for patients. That is why money will now follow the patient as they choose which hospital they will receive treatment in. In my opinion, this will see the greatest improvement. When this happens, targets may not be necessary. After all, we will not elect to have a service from someone who is performing badly (mortality rates are available) or keeps us waiting too long.

I for one believe that government or an independent body will always be necessary to ensure that taxpayers money is directed appropriately. Health care is the only service where I have limited choice. If my GP is poor it is not open to me to change practice. As you say the local scandal over waiting lists is awful. You surely are not blaming the government for this? I certainly want to know what the waiting list is should I require hospital treatment. I depend on the government to ensure that this information is available to me.

Delighted that you think the Tories will improve the NHS. Sorry, from past experience this is not credible.

fairdealphil said...

Liz: Thanks. Personally, I agree with giving patients the choice of being treated earlier if they are prepared to travel.

Over the past ten years, the waiting lists have come down largely due to the targets and pressure on hoospitals to deliver them.

It could not have been achieved without the extra investment in hospital buildings, and the thousands more nurses, doctors and surgeons which we have today in the NHS - money which the Tories - including Cameron - voted against!!!

Thankfully no-one now waits more than nine months, but that is still too long in the 21st Century.

As you say, expectations have rightly risen and I believe we still need to be focussed on the Labour election manifesto pledge to cut waiting times to no more than 18 weeks from referral to treatment.

In my view it is better to aim high and get a near miss than not to aim at all.

I look forward to the day when we don't need targets, but we're not there yet.

On obesity/BMI, isolated cases will always hit the headlines, but refusal of NHS treatment where there is a clinical need is not the norm and would surely be challenged in the courts.

fairdealphil said...

Geoffrey:

If the best Cameron can come up with is recyling a failed Tory policy which led to a two-tier health service, there's no danger of the NHS falling into Tory hands again.

If Cameron really cares for the NHS, when will he:

1. Apologise for voting against Labour's massive investment in the NHS?

2. Match Labour's pledge to further reduce waiting times to 18 weeks?

Sorry Geoffrey, but I remember waiting all night for treatment in a bleak A&E department when the Tories were in power.

Today, well over 90 per cent of patients are treated and on their way home within four hours.

That's been achieved by more dedicated staff, investment to modernise almost every A&E in the country...and targets which have led to improved practices and improved treatments.

Michael Oakeshott said...

You miss the point Phil. Cameron is saying that the obsession with waiting times and these mountain of targets and bureacracy distort clinical priorities. He says this because surveys consistently show that health professionals believe this. Are they wrong? The debate goes a bit beyond the rather simplistic notion "Cameron wants us to wait for ages". Try to think things through a bit more before resorting to parroting the party line eh?

voice of reason said...

David Cameron has once again shown how ridiculous his opportunism is. He espouses 'choice' in the NHS, but wants to remove the very facts people will need in order to make that choice.

Cameron's 'Lucky Dip' NHS policy will only benefit the private sector. It will be an 'Unlucky Dip' for the rest of us using the NHS, which I should remind you Geoffrey is the best it has ever been.

Cameron opposed every single penny of investment Labour put into the NHS and now he has the nerve to pretend to care about it.

As with all Tories, Cameron lacks the policies and the principles to lead this country.

Michael Oakeshott said...

Firstly it's not INVESTMENT, it's spending. Don't try to con people with language, Orwell rumbled that 50 years ago. Would you go and INVEST money at Sainbury's? No, you spend it.

Secondly, Labour didn't put the money in. The British taxpayer did, and I suspect more than a few of them are rather pissed off that Labour claim to be investing money. Have they made an unknown contribution to the exchequer? Perhaps they have paid for the peerages they sold?

The NHS is crap, and anyone with the misfortune to use it realises that. I am sorry Cameron chooses to associate the Tories with such incompetence, but it is still Labour that made the mess and the electorate will surely remember them for it.

Steven Morden said...

Michael, I take it you're a young man? I remember the NHS of the Tory years because I worked in it chum. It was a horror show. They slashed our funding, cut the number of nurse training places and told us any pay rises we wanted had to come out of existing budgets.

Labour haven't fully sorted out the NHS by any means, but it is a world away from the hell that it was.

People like you need to look beyond the Daily Mail for your opinions. I work in the NHS and I can tell you know that all of us NHS staff know that it's a darn sight better under Labour.

Michael Oakeshott said...

No you are paid a darn sight more "chum". Or put it another way. You cost us a damn sight more. There is a subtle difference I think. The service is rubbish, I would rather die than have MRSA inflicted on me by the NHS.

I haven't seen a copy of the Daily Mail for two years, and am quite capable of forming my own opinions. Does socialism preclude the possibility of independent thought these days? Quite why this organisation needs a million unionised parasite militants working for it is anyone's guess, but I dream of the day the whole disgusting organisation is destroyed from top to bottom.

Britain deserves better.

Mrs Doyle (Skegness) said...

oooh, go on Michael, you're such a charmer.

Michael, can you remind me, what proportion of households have no health insurance in the proud nation in which you now live?

Brynley said...

Eagle-eyed readers of Phil's blog will have noticed a great improvement.

Last year, if you clicked on Geoffrey Brooking's link, you ended up at his political blog (mostly recycled Conservative press releases).

This year, there has been a big step forward.

You are sent to Geoffrey Brooking's snooker blog, which is far more interesting.

2007 - year of Geoffrey Brooking's snooker blog. Yeah!!!

fairdealphil said...

brynley:

yes, and for those watching Geoffrey's blog in black and white, the blues are behind the reds...?

fairdealphil said...

Michael:

I love the Tory spin on what is "investment" and what is "spending".

It's why Thatcher always spoke about "investing in new roads" but "subsidising the railways".

Money for the NHS may well be "spending". But I'm happy to pay it, as an investment.

Praps insurance policy would be more accurate...

It's all about Labour's values and Tory aims.