Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Staffordshire could be the key which opens a long shut door.

"The Conservatives and the Lib Dems have yet again shown their ugly faces
by announcing the closure of A&E and maternity services.
I cannot write what I think about Hunt at the moment or this government
as my words would be expressed in anger and hatred that makes me
no better than them"

"Are you aware that over 51 Tories and 3 Lib-Dumb MPs have an interest
in private health care companies and would benefit from the Health Act.
Shameful corruption by a British govt."

"Record fall in NHS satisfaction after David Cameron took control.
This what he and the Tories are doing. Don't believe this Tory b******d"
The above posts, and many more like them, appeared on my Facebook newsfeed in recent weeks. Despite their aggressive, accusatory and in some respects defamatory tone, I regard the person who wrote them as a friend. We have known each other for nearly 25 years. We first met in 1990 when I was the Conservative agent in Southampton. 'Dan' (not his real name) was a student at Southampton Institute and came to see me about setting-up a Young Conservative branch. We became good friends, and Dan was one of the few people who stood loyally by my side though some very difficult times in my life. Though our friendship drifted apart, we have kept in touch. Over the years Dan has moved markedly to the Left. He is now a Labour councillor and a full time Unison official.
The point I wish to make, however, is how difficult it is to engage in an open and honest discussion about health provision in this country without the Left foaming at the mouth and accusing you of crimes against humanity. 
As partisan as I am, I do not for one moment that think today's dreadful report into Staffordshire NHS is a reflection of the entire health service or everyone who works in the public sector. However, any bad news from the private sector, such as the G4S Olympic fiasco, is seized upon by the Left as evidence of the evils of capitalism, how it is bound to fail and how it must never be trusted. The language used, as shown above, is emotional, aggressive and undemocratic.
At the end of the day the NHS is like any other public service; from waste disposal to road building. They are all services vital to the well being of the country, financed by the taxpayer and carried out by people with skills and abilities which take years of training  The only difference between these public services is perception and emotion.
If your local county council built a road project which was dangerous, badly constructed and incompetently managed, there would be uproar. The council, and the contractors, would be damned by the public. Heads would roll and there would be demands for compensation (and rightfully so).  When the health service fails, which it does regularly, thousands of times every day, when it cancels operations, misdiagnoses patients, prescribes incorrect drugs, or it's staff are incompetent or rude to customers (sorry, we have to call them patients as this word makes them subservient to the provider), then there is never an acknowledgement of failure let alone never an apology, and God help you if you ever dare criticise the 'angels'. 
Try to engage the public sector unions or the vested interests in any discussion about reform and out pours the vitriol. The fact is, the health service will never meet demand and will never satisfy public expectations. How can it ..?  It's 'FREE'. And anything that's 'FREE' has no value in the eyes of the consumer. and let's not forget that the appalling events in Staffordshire occurred between 2005-2009, 8 years into a Labour government which poured taxpayer's money into the health service with no regard to outcomes or value.
Regardless of what my Socialist friends wish to think, in over 30 years active membership of the Conservative Party I have never met any member (elected or otherwise) who does not believe that Britain should have a health service, open to all who need it, and free at the point of delivery.  However that does not mean the health service in its present form is fit for purpose. It doesn't mean that where the private sector can deliver services more efficiently than the public sector, they shouldn't be encouraged to do so. It doesn't mean that those who can afford to pay for private treatment, thus freeing capacity for those who can't, shouldn't receive tax incentives to do so. It doesn't mean we shouldn't consider hotel charges. And it doesn't mean that every service has to be funded by the taxpayer; why, for example, should a hard pressed family man who cannot afford a night out with his family end up paying for another man's tattoo removal?
Until we can ask these questions in an open, calm and non accusatory way, then we shall never address the problems in the heath service.

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