Wednesday 23 February 2011

The NHS - Cameron's Albatross

It's early 2010 and Cameron is a worried man. That 22 point lead of last year has slipped away, slowly and inexorably until a poll or two show the two main parties with just a 1 or 2 point gap.

Not only is a majority looking less and less likely, but another Labour win is now a real possibility.

Only one thing will turn it around and at the start of a brand new year, Cameron plays the only card that might allow his party a shot at power. "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS" he claims and promises to ring fence NHS spending. Focus groups have told him that Conservatives are still not trusted on this issue and unless he changes it, he won't win. There will be no "cuts to front line services" and there will be no "top down re-organisation." 

If the public had forgotten everything else about '97, they still remembered the elderly patients dying on hospital trolleys through lack of beds, they remembered 18 month waits for surgery and Care in the Community. They remembered closed wards and leaky hospital roofs and endless cuts to trained staff.

Cameron spoke of his disabled son Ivan, who died the year before, to persuade even people like me that he understood the NHS, understood how vital it was, understood how much we rely on it and treasure it. He talked of the worry and fear and the great relief of knowing that the incredible NHS staff were there when his family needed it most. He staked his future on persuading us that he valued the NHS just as we do.

Today, False Economy and the Telegraph reveal that over 50,000 jobs will be lost in the NHS and that these jobs will include doctors, dentists, nurses, paramedics and other vital front-line staff. The headline will run all day on every channel. It will be seen by every cyber-campaigner. It will be run in every newspaper.

Andrew Lansley's "reforms" have already been a nightmare for Cameron - GPs are against it, consultants are against it, nurses, patients and hospitals are against it. The news has run in a loop ever since the true extent of his plans was revealed and most people believe the NHS is being privatised through the back door. With this scheme, the government has pitted itself against the NHS and has almost no allies to see its reform through.

Soon, people will be served an endless diet of dying babies in overstretched maternity wards, lengthening waiting lists, cancer patients dying before they are referred for treatment, hospital closures and horror stories about mistakes made by overstretched, exhausted staff. There will always be these stories when the NHS is squeezed and they're a deal breaker.

It won't matter what arguments they counter with, it won't matter how unjust the criticisms, this is the NHS and you attack it at your peril. To stake so much, to allow statements linking your appreciation to a dead child, to make promises about top down re-organisation and staffing levels that you had no intention of keeping is total and utter political suicide.

Trees and libraries and students all pale into insignificance when the NHS lumbers into view and politicians that haven't learnt this yet must have spent their lives living in a bubble. Sure, improve it's structures to make life easier for staff and patients alike, cut management and support jobs if you can be 100% sure that they will be the only jobs to go, but if the public even sniff a threat they will reject you.

Not only do the public sniff a threat, but the stench is getting so strong after just 10 months, that no-one can miss it. This NHS albatross will never leave Cameron now and if he's not careful, it will destroy any credibility that he won for his party on public services.


  1. Excellent post Sue, Very detailed indeed, and one of your best yet.

  2. The worst part of your article is - It is all so true and I fear for both my NHS and what my family will have to do in the future to get Medical treatment. I am old enough to remember what it was like before the Welfare State spread it net far and wide. I never thought this day would come and it is only possible because so many people have no experience of life without the NHS. Having to decide to feed your children or pay for a Doctors visit for example - My Grandfather died of TB but we couldn't get it confirmed because we couldn't afford a Doctor fee equivalent to around £30.00 in today's money.

  3. Thanks Eoin - Cameron the Naivel will just have to wait, lol (he's in there though)

  4. Interesting how Cameron is happy to declare his reliance on the state supplying medical services and educational services for his children, in fact he has shouted it from the rooftops. However, where housing is concerned, you are a no-good lazy scrounger if you expect the government to house you.

  5. I am sure you have seen the article in today's Guardian, Sue, regarding the new disability claimants system: - a subject which you covered so well a few blogs ago. Add these 'tweaks' to the benefit system to the cuts to the NHS and further down the line you may well have medical staff with less time/opportunity to support Disability Benefit claimants in their appeal. A Conspiracy Theory? Possibly. But we have Prime Minister who can say when in opposition 'We are the party of the NHS' and when in power 'We are all in this together' and yet allow such abuses of the benefits system - not from the claimants side but from the 'system's' side and threats to 'privatise by the back door' the NHS.

    I feel a rant of my own coming on but I doubt it will be as well written as yours, Sue! I did 'write an open letter to Mr Cameron' [] but doubt very much if he will have logged on to read it!

  6. I really hope you are right - the danger is the complexity of health care systems are such that people may not quite 'get' what is happening... until contracts have been tendered, signed and sealed.

  7. I agree EtonMess ... and similarly, there has been precious little outcry about the privatising of all our public services which DC announced on Monday. Clearly, the proposed changes to the NHS were no accident of Lansley 'doing his own thing'. All the nonsense about the Big Society was more smoke and mirrors to hide the draconian intent of this government to reverse the post war consensus on the Welfare State. Its not back to the 80s. It is back to the 30s.

  8. In a lot of ways, Sue & EtonMess, it is worse than going back to the 30s, the 20thC, but akin to going back to the 1830s, the 19thC. When the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1834 adjoining parishes were linked together in unions to adminster jointly 'welfare' to the poor & destitute of their parishes. This was a way to save money by pooling resources by being more 'efficient' [a good 19thC buzzword] Of course this resulted too often in mass catering etc being costed and delivered at the cheapest possible rates [Workhouse records make fascinating readings at County records offices] and the stringent rules to get admitted into a workhouse resemble too closely the sort of assessments claimants have to undergo now. Of course in the 19thC there was the notions of the 'deserving poor' and thus too the idea that there must be 'undeserving poor'. Poverty was commonly thought to be a sign of God's disapproval [Calvinst/Protestant Work Ethic] so those born poor and staying poor really did not deserve or expect much help. In a really perverse way, the 1834 Act was the beginning of a kind of Welfare State in that it 'standardized' across the country the provisions of each union for their needy but left individual unions to set the spending on their 'paupers'. As long as an individual union kept its inhabitants alive all was well - officialdom only interfered if mortality rates rose too high as in the case in the Somerset workhouse in Bridgwater in 1839.
    So it seems as if the Government wants to keep today's 'needy' on subsistence level but with not enough money for 'luxuries' as a punishment for not being born rich. Excuse me if I sound cynical, we should learn lessons from the mistakes of history - not return to them.

  9. Sue, Eton Mess and all

    The announcement that all public services were to be privatised was what sent me for retail therapy! I knew no-one would really hear what he was saying. Too depressing.

    I'm right about the NHS though - it's universal and the one issue the Tories shouldn't have gone near with a bargepole

  10. Elizannie

    Your argument is totally convincing .... and awful.

    I agree Sue

    "I'm right about the NHS though - it's universal and the one issue the Tories shouldn't have gone near with a bargepole"

    The only Pollyanna-ish comment that I can offer, is that things change when people have nothing to lose .... so maybe there is hope for the future.

  11. Thanks Sue. We live in hope that people will see what you (and I) see, that they won't continue with eyes wide shut to the horrible reality of Cameron's regime.

    ... and ah, suedavies18, don't get me started on the 'Big Society': BS: we all know what those letters really stand for; and it's Cameron's cover for cuts. This is why we need a safety net, this why 5 Quid for Life exists — because under this regime, nothing is sacred, everything that doesn't serve the direct interests of the wealthy must go. The poor, the weak, the elderly, physically or mentally ill or disabled, homeless or otherwise vulnerable are all so much dross, expendable for the greater good — and that greater good is Cameron's book balancing exercise. Compassionate conservatism? Yeah, right, and I really am a banana...

  12. Elizannie

    Your post regarding the new poor law is well made. In those days people were forced from the parish into the big cities where ghettos were created. That's the reason for the workhouse being set up - overcrowding and too many unemployed chasing too few jobs. Agriculture was decimated. Incidentally, a similar thing happened centuries before with the enclosure act.

  13. As a Canadian reading about the current political climate in England and the proposed NHS reforms, it reminds me that people like Cameron with no real vision or aptitude to solve the real problems around healthcare, instead creates a crisis "the current scaremongering around healthcare affordability" thereby opening the path to privatization as the only cure for the ill. Its a disgusting tactic being seen more and more today ... create crisis around the public system in order to bring in privatization as the only solution. Its farcical but what is really frightening is ...will he and his ilk succeed? I pray that the British people will rise up en masse to defeat this cheap ploy towards profiteering in healthcare before it is too late. So much is at stake!!!

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  15. Sue, another excellent posting. However, I do take issue with your conclusions and comments re the media.

    Fact is that most people get their news from TV and all of the TV news channels have basically conspired to keep the NHS out of their news schedules.

    The majority of people I speak to know nothing of what is going on with the NHS and my neighbours are a classic example. Not one of the 10 I have spoken to know anything about it!


    Well, I go back to me previous view expressed on both Twitter and FB, and in my blog.

    This country is populated in the main with people who are not interested in 'politics', take no interest in what's happening in the country until affects them personally, and have lost all sense of priority and morality.

    They are also extremely gullible when it comes to politics and have only a scant knowledge of the actual issues - unlike our European counterparts.

    Maybe I am burnt out after 40 years of campaigning and being part of the Trade union movement, but I remain totally dismayed at the lack of principle and the selfishness of the majority in this country.

    Sadly, yourself, the thousands who attend demos, and the many on Twitter who discuss these issues and pass on information; are in the minority.

    For all of these reasons, not least because we saw it all before in the 1980's with evil Thatcherism lasting 18 years, I do not share your conclusion over the political destiny for the evil Tories in the next election.

    Harold Wilson once said: "A week is a long time in politics" He was totally correct.

    But he didn’t reckon on the collective amnesia and complacency of the British people, which in my view, means that even a day is 'a long time in politics'

    I hope with all my being that your conclusions are totally correct, and that I am simply an old, bitter and twisted trade unionist; whose capacity for accurate judgement has been lost in the memory of bitter battles for justice, humanity, and morality.


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