Should the NHS be used as a political football?
As the election campaign continues, Downing Street has taken emergency action to head off winter pressures in the NHS amid growing fears in government that a healthcare crisis could derail the Tory party’s general election campaign.
According to reports, the Prime Minister has been holding regular meetings at No. 10 with the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, as evidence mounts of lengthening delays in treatment caused by shortages of doctors and nurses. In addition, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has been seeing Simon Stevens every week to assess how to prevent a deterioration in waiting times at hospitals and GP surgeries in the run up to election day on December 12th.
According to recently released NHS figures, obtained by a freedom of information request, tens of thousands of people had their operations cancelled due to staff shortages and faulty medical equipment in 2018. Furthermore, the number of procedures cancelled by hospitals for non-clinical reasons has increased by 32 per cent in the last two years, with nearly 4000 more procedures cancelled in 2018 than in 2016.
The data show how staff vacancies continue to put the NHS, and its patients, under strain. Last year, the NHS reported it was short of 100 000 staff including, 10 000 doctors and 35 000 nurses while the Nuffield Trust charity estimated the cost of repairing faulty medical equipment across the NHS to be around £6 billion.
What are your views? Should the NHS be used as a political football? Or should the opportunity be grasped to lobby for more staff, better equipment (including up-to-date IT), and improved infrastructure?