Harry Saville is a Deputy Chairman of Aberconwy Conservative Association and interns with a Member of Parliament.
The NHS is a major issue in this general election. An unholy alliance of the Labour Party, other leftist parties, trade unions and left-wing journalists seem hellbent on scaremongering – promoting a narrative that the NHS isn’t safe in Conservative hands. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Conservatives have a great story from the last five years to tell about the NHS. It is vital that we promote our record on such a key issue.
Despite facing the gravest economic crisis since 1945, in Government the Conservatives have protected the NHS from spending cuts. Protecting the NHS budget has only been possible on the back of a strong economic recovery which our long-term economic plan is delivering. Had the Conservatives not taken a bold, pragmatic approach to forming a stable government and boosting financial confidence in the UK back in 2010 our economy, and the NHS funding it provides, would have been plunged into chaos. Through saving our economy and protecting the public finances the Conservatives have ensured increased funding and have saved the NHS as we know it today.
Several years later, and the main accusation the Conservative Party face from those the loony left is that we are privatising the NHS – again, nothing could be further than the truth. Privatisation of the NHS means selling off the whole organisation. What we have been doing in Government is allowing the NHS to work with private sector bodies to deliver better care for patients. Only six per cent of the NHS budget is spent using private organisations to deliver care and treatment: these range from privately funded hospices to charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation. The proportion of the NHS budget that has been spent on contracting private providers has increased by 1.7 per cent since 2010 – ultimately, a tiny proportion. When collaboration with third party organisations has the potential to deliver better results for patients, we would be mad not to embrace it.
Kate Godfrey, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Stafford, recently wrote of the “threats” posed by the “biggest privatisation in NHS history” in that bastion of left wing dogma, the Guardian’s Comment is Free. Her first scare tactic was to raise the spectre of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), suggesting that the NHS is on track to be hijacked by foreign interests. As I’ve said on this site, the parties negotiating TTIP have made clear they have no desire for health services to be included within its remit. She also claimed that working with private providers will mean funding diverted away from frontline services. However, Conservatives in government have ensured that the NHS does not enter into any further contracts in which it pays private providers more than the cost of providing treatment in house – a marked change to the Blairite policies of Labour, which put private profit before patient care and taxpayers’ money.
The Conservatives also have a strong story to tell about the structure of the NHS. The Coalition’s much criticised reorganisation of the NHS has seen administration costs slashed from five per cent to three per cent of the NHS budget. This potentially means a further £1.7 billion a year being spent on providing care for patients who need it. Meanwhile, we have pledged to provide an additional £8 billon of NHS funding by 2020 – funding further improvements envisioned by Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England.
Another exciting initiative planned for the NHS is bringing care closer to patients through devolution. The test bed for this initiative is Manchester, where control of the NHS will be devolved from central government to a local government consortium. The Conservatives want to put local people in charge of their own health services, because we believe that these services in Manchester are better managed by people in Manchester, attuned to local needs, as opposed to London.
Labour are in a tail spin over this initiative, claiming it will precipitate the break up of the NHS. Labour had no such qualms over devolving health care to Wales and Scotland when it was a politically savvy move, and likely to buy them votes at the ballot box. Indeed, the Welsh Labour Government’s record on the NHS speaks volumes about Labour’s true position. The Welsh NHS faces meltdown as it has stomached up to eight per cent funding cuts in recent years. Meanwhile, Welsh Labour’s insistence on pursuing a “socialist” approach to the NHS, choosing not to work with private providers, has seen some waiting lists reach three times the length as those for the same treatment in England.
Labour and the Left have shown themselves more concerned with socialist dogma than patients and have taken the NHS for granted: they use it as a political football to whip up fear, as part of an anti-Conservative project fear. Over the last five years Conservatives have stood firmly on the side of patients, delivering the best outcomes possible. We have an important message to tell – that the NHS is safe in our hands.