Who should we believe on the NHS?

WHO should we trust on the NHS? The people who work in the health service would seem to be the best place to start, the doctors and the nurses and all the others on the frontline.

This morning I have just shared two videos about the NHS on Facebook. This is not something I do often, as all those exhortations to share this, like this or sign this petition can be wearying – even when you agree.

The two videos are political in a broad sense rather than party political, although each argues the case against voting Conservative.

The first video is organised by the NHS Roadshow, a group of NHS doctors, nurses and campaigners that is urging people to “vote NHS” – or, in other words, to vote in a way that keeps the Conservatives out. At the time of writing, the video has been seen 2,124,121 times, although that will doubtless have risen even when I put the final full-stop on today’s blog.

What the video does is pose statements about the NHS as made by Mrs Maybe and Co (although without directly attributing these statements) – and then provide the NHS context.

In terms of money, Theresa May always insists that her government is spending more on health and education than ever before. Such statements are meaningless for the simple reason that everything costs more than it used to.

The relevant figure is the percentage of GDP that we spend on the NHS – and, according to Dr Louse Irvine, a GP seen in the video, we are experiencing the largest drop in that percentage since the NHS was founded. A massive cut, in other words.

Registrar Dr Fiona Martin talks about the issue of ‘health tourism’, often touted by the unscrupulous as the sort of problem that is bringing the NHS to its knees. So how much does this cost? According to Dr Martin, the figure is £200m a year – the same as running the NHS for 15 hours. In other words, it’s a distraction rather than a real strain on the NHS. (Incidentally, running this hasty election is said to be costing us around £150 million).

Another GP, Dr Jackie Appleby, points out that the inefficiency in the NHS is mostly down to the internal market – and if that was abolished, “we could save billions”.

The medics in the video roll on, sticking up for the NHS and pointing out that they believe the Tories threaten what so many people cherish, either through under-funding or through a hidden wish to privatise as much as possible of the NHS.

Underfunding a service makes it look inefficient – and lays the ground for more privatisation, which then muddies the waters further, and leads to more inefficiency. This is how the madness goes on.

The other video sees Dr Jonny Coates urging people not to vote Conservative as “they can’t be trusted with our NHS”. Dr Coates points out that he is not a politician, just a doctor who is worried about the NHS. He offers examples of the difficulties he sees, including – “The emergency ambulance I call for you takes six hours to arrive.”

His video has been viewed 23,591 times – much more modest, but still impressive.

Although those two videos are propaganda, they represent a more honest sort of propaganda than that put out by the political parties.

Another health issue of this election lies in the Conservative manifesto pledge to introduce what critics are calling a “dementia tax”. The party wants to include the value of someone’s home when calculating how much they must pay towards care at home. This bill would be settled after the person with dementia had died. The costs would rise until, according to the BBC website, “they were down to their last £100,000”.

People who own their house like to feel that they are passing something on. It please me to think that our three will receive a share in the house (pretty much the only thing of value we own), and I would hate to think of that money going to the government instead.

Feelings run high and mixed on this matter. Writing today in the Times, Libby Purves describes the proposal as bold but necessary – “If an old person needs home care, then for heaven’s sake let the damn house contribute,” she declares.

Social care is hugely costly and deeply complicated, it is true. But I reckon that Libby is wrong on this. I want to live in a country where people who are unfortunate enough to suffer from dementia can be treated at home and have their costs met by the government. Isn’t that what a National Health Service should be about?

We’ll throw untold trillions at useless missiles, but won’t pay for people with dementia to be treated at home. If that’s not a disgrace, I don’t know what is.

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