The latest Tory plan to ‘save’ our NHS is a dangerous distraction

Theresa May and NHS logo
Fréa Lockley

On 7 January, the Conservative Party launched the latest 10-year plan for the NHS. But far from ‘saving’ the NHS, or halting the UK’s deepening healthcare crisis, it’s little more than a dangerous distraction. And both Labour and healthcare professionals have been openly critical.

“10 years to clear up the mess they have made”

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth led the condemnation. In a Labour Party statement, he pointed out that:

The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history, swingeing cuts to public health services and slashing social care services. They have failed to recruit and train the staff desperately needed leaving our NHS struggling with chronic shortages of over 100,000 staff… And now the Tories say they need 10 years to clear up the mess they have made.

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As the Mirror reported, Ashworth also explained that “social care services for the elderly and most vulnerable have been savaged with multi billion pound cuts”.

In June 2018, Theresa May claimed that a £20bn cash injection was a 70th “birthday present” to the NHS. But this still only equated to an annual rise of 3.4% – less than the “3.7% average rise the NHS has had since 1948”. Details of the plan were delayed amid ongoing Brexit chaos. Meanwhile, the government snuck out further NHS cuts of £85m for 2019, just before parliament closed for Christmas. Crucially, there’s still no detail about where the funding will actually come from. Even the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg seemed sceptical:

The latest announcement fails to account for the current NHS staffing crisis. And many healthcare professionals see it as totally unworkable.

Staffing crisis

In response to the announcement, chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said that “while welcome” this plan offered “little more” than to “cover rising costs and demand”. Because, he said, “we’re also constrained by severe workforce shortages” and, he continued, “after the best part of a decade of austerity, there’s a lot of catching up to be done”. As Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation thinktank, explained, the NHS “is already short of 100,000 doctors, nurses and other staff”.

Doctors and healthcare professionals have been openly critical of the announcement:

This staffing crisis puts lives at risk:

And the Tories seem to have ‘conveniently’ forgotten that part of the current crisis is directly linked to Brexit:

As the chief executive of the NHS Confederation also pointed out, the ten-year plan isn’t a ‘miracle’ to fix a broken NHS:

Ashworth called this the latest “wasteful, bureaucratic” plan, as Tories continue “lavishing billions of taxpayers’ cash on poor quality, privatised health care”. Many share this concern:

Smoke and mirrors

One doctor openly called this announcement “political propaganda” fuelled by the mainstream media:

Doctors and nurses have been warning of the crisis and impact on patients for years. Yet the timing of this announcement comes just ahead of May’s delayed Brexit vote – that she’s widely expected to lose:

People suggested that the news smacks of a ‘sweetener’ ahead of a possible general election:

Meanwhile, others also saw a more sinister aspect in the detail which pushes more blame onto individuals already broken by nine years of austerity:

Investment in the NHS should be cause for celebration, but there’s little to celebrate in the latest cynical Tory move. Because this ten-year plan won’t even scratch the surface of the damage caused by this government. The NHS needs major surgery, not a distracting sticking plaster, to save it.

Featured images via Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916/Flickr and NHS England

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