Rachel Joyce is a doctor, has worked as both a Director of Public Health and a Medical Director in the NHS, and is a former Parliamentary Candidate.
I care passionately about the NHS. I’ve spent my whole working life (over 20 years) as an NHS doctor who wants the best for patients and staff. That’s why I joined the Conservative party, and why I will be voting Conservative in the general election – because I believe the Conservatives are the true party of the NHS, and below I set out why this is the case.
A report by the Commonwealth Fund last year ranked the UK first in their international comparison of healthcare. Within the UK however, some parts of the NHS are better than others – the Conservative-run English NHS outperforms the Labour-run Welsh system time and time again. Waiting times for A&E, waits to see specialists, and – crucially – cancer waits are all better in Conservative-run England than Labour-run Wales (see data below).
Conservatives are committed to the extra money needed, Labour are not
The choice is also clear for the English NHS for the next Parliament. The NHS England Chief Executive has said that it will need a further £8 billion to be able to deal with the challenges of an ageing population and advances in health care. The Conservatives have committed to the £8 billion extra funding, and have backed the NHS’s own plan for the next five years, but Labour are refusing to find the money the NHS needs.
People should judge us on our track record: between 2010/11 and 2015/16, NHS spending in England has increased by £7.3 billion in real terms. In direct contrast, Labour chose to cut the NHS budget in Wales by 8 per cent, which is why performance across the border has deteriorated so dramatically. Labour would do the same to the English NHS: they have only promised £2.5bn more a year by the end of the next Parliament and, as Lord Mandelson has admitted, the mansion tax they have dreamed up to fund this won’t raise the money they have said it will “in a month of Sundays… everyone knows that”.
This means that the only major party that will provide the funding to allow the NHS to continue to deliver high quality care is the Conservative party. Only the Conservatives have the economic plan to deliver this needed increase in funding.
Labour would force a costly major re-organisation of the NHS
Labour have stated that they would reverse the reforms that the Coalition brought in. That would mean that under Labour there would be a costly reorganisation – wasting money, staff time and lowering staff morale. The last thing we need is a major reorganisation now.
What we need are the ground-breaking improvements that have been recommended by NHS England for the next few years. These are not political recommendations, but a strategy developed by NHS bodies, Royal Colleges, think tanks and charities to develop the strategy.
This has laid out a plan for the next five years that will lead to better ways of arranging and delivering care to people, from home to hospital. It includes big programmes for public health and prevention (stopping people getting ill in the first place); giving them far greater control (e.g. through personal budgets and helping them to better manage their conditions if they have chronic diseases); breaking down barriers between different bits of the system so they get joined up services as in programmes such as the Better Care Fund and the Manchester pilot as well as NHS England “vanguards” (linking GPs and hospitals, physical and mental health, health and social care); and turbo-boosting innovation in the use of information technology, medicines and medical devices (online access to our records, online booking of appointments and repeat prescriptions, much better use of technology like ipads by doctors and nurses and therapists).
And the Conservatives have agreed to fund the £8 billion needed to fund the NHS needs and these exciting developments and improvements to delivery of care.
Scaremongering vs Improvements
During this election campaign, Labour have offered nothing but scaremongering on the NHS. Last week, they claimed the Conservatives had a secret plan to cut the number of NHS nurses. This was immediately shown to be untrue by Shaun Lintern, a journalist for the Health Service Journal – who showed that in contrast, the plan is for an actual increase in the number of nurses from 2015 to 2019, openly published in Health Education England’s workforce plan.
The other bit of scaremongering that the Labour party like to indulge in is the ‘privatisation’ of the NHS. In fact, the biggest increase of the use of the private sector for NHS patients was under Labour. The rate of increase has slowed under the coalition. Moreover, Labour’s PFI for new hospitals was so poorly done that many parts of the health system are paying hundreds of millions of pounds on extremely high interest rates and charges – a poor legacy due to the incompetence of the last Labour government.
Their latest ruse is to say that TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will be a threat to the NHS because of the Health and Social Care Act. In fact, Kael De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, says that any discourse about TTIP affecting the NHS is just scaremongering. He says that, contrary to what is alleged by the scaremongers, a US multinational will not be able to successfully sue for damages for lost future profit just because a parliament introduces a new law with the legitimate aim of protecting the environment or public health.
Unfortunately for patients and staff, the NHS is something that Labour feel they can “weaponise”. This weaponisation of the NHS by Labour is something that makes me angry. After all, it was Labour that the Mid Staffs scandal happened. Under Andy Burnham and other Labour Secretaries of State, there was a cover-up culture of not wanting to hear bad news, and certainly not wanting the public to get wind of it. Whistle-blowers were silenced, people lost their jobs for reporting problems.
In contrast, under Jeremy Hunt, whistle-blowers are now protected, inspections have been beefed up, and patient satisfaction has improved. In January this year, NHS England published research that showed satisfaction levels with the NHS are on the up – rising from 60 to 65 per cent – while dissatisfaction levels dropped to an all-time low of 15 per cent. It is only with a strong economy that you can have a strong NHS: only the Conservatives can keep investing the resources that the NHS needs to ensure that it keeps going from strength to strength.
These are some of the reasons why I, as an NHS doctor, will be voting Conservative in May. For the sake of the NHS, let’s hope that a majority of other voters do too.
Latest available stats on waiting times, comparing English, Welsh and Scottish NHS:
A&E waits (percentage of patient seen within 4 hours)
- England: 92.5 per cent (Week to 12 April 2015)
- Wales: 82.3 per cent (Month of March 2015)
Labour run Wales hasn’t hit its A&E target for five years (House of Commons Library, NHS Wales Statistics, 30 December 2014).
The percentage of patients treated within 18 weeks of referral, (for Wales it is a longer wait target of 26 weeks).
- England: 93.1 per cent (Month of February 2015).
- Wales: 85.3 per cent (Month of February 2015).
The number of patients waiting more than 26 weeks for treatment has multiplied by nearly six times in Wales whereas it has gone down by over a third in England since May 2010.
Cancer Waits (62 day referral to treatment)
- England: 83.8 per cent (Q3 2014/15).
- Wales: 82.7 per cent (February 2015)
The Welsh NHS last met its cancer waiting times in 2008 (Welsh Government, Statistics and Research, NHS cancer waiting times).