The article below is why I think this government are really, really stupid.
It's the short sightedness you see. When is a saving not a saving? When it costs more than it saves.
The article starts by saying that mental health issues cost the country 105 Billion a year. 105 Billion!! You could practically wipe out the deficit at a stroke if it wasn't an issue. Now, obviously, I'm not claiming that's possible, but research is much less than on cancer or heart disease - just 75 million a year. Those with mental health issues are more likely to die of cancer or a heart attack, but we don't really know why. Labour had pledged to raise research funding from 2% to 11% of the overall research budget, but this is reported to be missing from Lansley's plans, due to be released shortly.
And that's the stupid bit. Stupid, stupid, stupid. According to those that know - The head of the Mental Health Foundation and the Institute of Psychiatry - Every pound spent in research will pay for itself in just three years. Just like the Film council that made £5 for every £1 it was given from the government. Or EMA's, which paid for themselves with some ridiculously low take up figure.
So, I know it's counter-intuitive, I know most of you don't believe me yet, I know you all think Gideon's axe needs to swing, but CUTS DON'T USUALLY SAVE MONEY. Well spent government money, targeted at improving outcomes just mean the public end up paying less in the long run. Perhaps there were schemes that were badly run. Fine, slash away. But if something saves money in the long run, leave it alone.
That money needs to be saved. Somewhere, we do need to find some cash. We could look in Sir Philip "Top Shop" Green's deep, tax-avoiding pockets. We could ask Gideon and his many trustafarian pals to bring their considerable wealth into UK jurisdiction and demand that they pay full UK tax on it. (See Artful Dodger ads to appear in all major newspapers on Tuesday, the day of the VAT rise). We could stop giving tax relief altogether on those who can afford to pay tens of thousands a month into private pensions. Not tax them mind, stop not taxing them. We could crack down on tax havens. We could ask Vodafone to pay the 6 Billion in tax they were allegedly allowed to not bother with. We could bring in that Robin Hood Tax, that just takes a tiny, tiny, fraction of every banking transaction but generates billions in revenue. http://robinhoodtax.org/
The alternative is terrifying. We just don't care about the implications of cutting vital research, support and care. Are we really so naive that we believe the country was sucked dry by hoards of faking sickies, immigrants and dole cheats? Sure there were some, but they sucked several hundred billion less than the bankers. Anyone know how much our banks have paid back of the more than 800 billion they demanded to pay for their greed? Don't you think we should?
The alternative is we leave sick patients to die, we leave the mentally ill untreated, we leave the elderly uncared for, we leave the disabled with no support and on and on and on. Do you want to live in that place?
This article, from the Independent, is a brilliantly comprehensive collection of all the broken promises and outright lies the Conservatives told about health in the run up to the election. Just health mind you, never mind the other departments.
It is not a matter for debate. You can't read it and say, "Oh, well, she would say that." The statistics are all there, the dates and even places of every broken promise, all catalogued. What's more, they are not just Lansley's broken promises, (Health Minister) they are Cameron's. Time and again, he jumped on the bandwagon of the day, promising to improve mental health research, increase midwife numbers, to invest in the NHS, to protect frontline services and improve patient care. Time and again, he's stayed quiet when some Tory minister or another has broken these promises.
I've just spent a month or so in one of the country's flagship hospitals. Where there used to be 6 trained nurses on every shift, there are now three. If you're lucky and no-one calls in sick. Patient's are already being left in their own filth, left in agony for want of some painkillers, drugs are forgotten, pharmacy's are taking hours to fill orders, tests are taking weeks longer, operations are being cancelled, hip replacements and cataracts are now no longer considered a priority, sick patient's are being sent home too soon, wards are closing, midwife numbers have fallen and beds are becoming scarce. The NHS has been asked to make 20 Billion in "Efficiency Savings". Well, they're not efficiency savings, they're cuts, and rumour has it another 10 Billion are on the way. The NHS isn't ring-fenced, it's being strangled.
We can wait, if you like. We can watch people suffer, we can watch people die, we can believe it's necessary to make the sick pay for the greed of the super-rich. We can leave disabled people to rot, we can make tens of thousands of people homeless, we can cut school funding and let the NHS be privatised against the wishes of 90% of it's staff.
Or we can wake up. We can stop sleepwalking into a disaster and we can stop believing the lies Mr Murdoch and Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne and all the others are telling us.
Happy 2011. Which is it to be?