A Tory NHS is an NHS in crisis
The Conservatives have spat back at Labour’s claim that GP waiting times have worsened under their watch. A new Labour campaign poster evokes the 1979 “Labour isn’t working” image of a serpentine dole queue, co-opted as the waiting room of a doctors’ surgery. The Tories have poured scorn on Labour’s message. They say the figures used to back it up do not reflect new changes they have made, that have improved access to GPs at weekends and in the evening.
There are plenty of statistics to throw around when it comes to the NHS. You can paint the health service as a skeleton service held together by grit and adrenaline, or a wasteful bureaucracy of a bygone age. Blinkered figures taken out of a wider context can be spun however is needed. But there are some uncomfortable truths that every doctor and every patient in the NHS can see for themselves.
We have an ageing population. This means not just more patients, but more patients with far more complex medical conditions. Where once an 80 year old had one or two problems, now they can have five or six well managed chronic conditions. Such complicated illnesses cannot be dealt with safely quickly.
We need more doctors. There is a projected shortfall of 10,000 GPs over the next five years. Applications to GP training are in decline, and over half of GPs say they plan to retire early. This slump in motivation has coincided with a top down reorganisation of the NHS brought about by a Tory government who promised they would do no such thing.
We need to fill a £30 billion NHS funding black hole between now and 2020. The Conservatives boast about their long term economic plan, then waste money on a needless restructuring of the health service that could have cost up to £3 billion. A chronically underfunded healthcare system will buckle under pressure. Already, A&E waiting times are the worst for the last 10 years. Last winter 20,000 operations were cancelled at short notice, more than any winter for the previous 13 years.
The Conservatives may snipe that things aren’t as bad as Labour portray. But now when the NHS shines it is in spite of the current government, not because of it. Andy Burnham has plenty of figures to chose from to back up claims that a Tory NHS is an NHS in crisis.