Come in Gran Bretagna, i politici devono dire “l’indicibile” per salvare il SSN: dobbiamo ristrutturate i nostri servizi per malati acuti. In sostanza, bisogna chiudere ospedali!
To fix the NHS politicians must say the unsayable
We need to restructure our acute healthcare services, which will involve district general hospital closures
For a government to aim for constant popularity in a world of 24-hour news is surely pointless, especially when it comes to the NHS. The religiosity surrounding our health system, graphically displayed in the Olympics opening ceremony, has long prevented honest discussion of its shortcomings. Our continual blind faith in a system designed in the shadow of war to serve a stoic nation is perplexing — and has cost lives.
The realities on the ground, along with the poor clinical outcomes when compared with other equivalent countries, can no longer be ignored. The NHS has been showing signs of terminal illness for some time. Yet hospitals that are inadequate continue to be maintained. Any politicians who think that the current system, including the financing model and physical structures, can be sustained in the longer term, under the weight of increasing clinical demands, are deluding themselves.
Indeed, by doing so, they risk further undermining the trust of an increasingly cynical public. Continuing to pay lip service to failed systems is just not acceptable. Neither is a short-termist and timid five-year plan. It is high time that politicians told the truth about the NHS. The system we have is not the envy of the Western world and outcomes are not as good as they should be. It cannot be right that criticism of the status quo is a political taboo. Professional politicians should cease ducking the issue just because it fails to deliver short-term electoral gain.
Lives are worth more than votes. The last Labour government attempted to prop up the NHS by increasing spending significantly. Such financial largesse required the support of Middle England. As measurement was popular with the centre Right, targets were introduced to “guarantee” better care.
The bitter irony for the people affected by the Mid Staffordshire scandal is that this target culture created the environment in which managers chased financial goals at the expense of humane care. Instead of looking for figures to fill election pledge cards, the last administration should have been concentrating on changing the NHS for the longer term. Sadly, it didn’t. A feel-good solution was delivered that left us all feeling worse.
But we have no choice. Those of us who want to protect the fundamental principle of access for all need to make the case. The financing of health care also needs reform. I believe that the responsibility for funding should be moving slowly from the state to the individual. Technological advances, ageing, obesity and an increased appetite for medical treatments all load costs on to the taxpayer. New approaches to these challenges often fit poorly within old systems.
I want people to be free to choose any lifestyle they wish, while understanding that their choices may lead to health care costs later in life. I want to be able to give more to the truly deserving because we have spent less on those able to provide for themselves. I also want the very best 21st-century health care to be delivered in safe and appropriate clinical environments.
If politicians like me do not persuade the public of the need for these changes, then the vulnerable in our society will be put at risk. In return for this candour, the British people must accept this new reality. It is an untenable position for the public to demand politicians to tell the truth, only then to vote them out because what they’ve said is unpopular. If you really want a better NHS, then you will have to find the courage to vote for it.
Dr Phillip Lee is Conservative MP for Bracknell and a practising GP
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