There are going to be many key battlegrounds for parties to debate over in the General Election come May. One of them, without a shred of doubt, is going to be the NHS. Over the span of my life, practically only two political parties have run the NHS; is it time for a change? Would the NHS be any safer under a UKIP government?
UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced on The Andrew Marr Show that if elected, UKIP aims to provide an extra £3 billion worth of funding, whilst at the same time also said that the party would save £2 billion "wasted on health tourism" by ensuring that migrants and tourists have health insurance as a condition of entry.
Nigel Farage has also been on record though and has openly entertained the idea of an insurance based system here in the UK. A recording of Mr Farage from 2012 has him saying; “I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100 billion a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.”
He then went on to use his regular column for The Independent to directly contradict this statement by stating that he wanted to keep the NHS free at the point of delivery. He said; “I don’t want to hand faceless private-sector companies control of our health service. We’ve now have two successive governments who have done that and it is clear that it doesn’t work.”
Now I don't know how other current UKIP supporters feel, but I'm finding that Mr Farage's ever changing face on policy is beginning to grate on me. He wants to be taken seriously as a major party and has successfully rode a wave of success after the European Election. But is the constant scrutiny and questions beginning to take it's toll on the charismatic leader?
His own Health Spokesperson Louise Bours said; “What people have to realise about Ukip is that we are much more democratic than other parties. Nigel is entitled to his opinion and others are entitled to theirs, we don’t whip people into all thinking the same thing, like the establishment parties.
“As he has said before, he raised the idea for discussion a while ago, the party discussed at and rejected it.I am certain that if the party discuss it again, we will reject it again. The vast majority of Ukip members, the British public and I will always favour a state funded NHS.”
Indeed Mr Farage is entitled to his opinion and I certainly wouldn't want to see UKIP fall into the trap of being like the established parties, with everyone looking and sounding the same. But the voters do deserve a consistent policy on the NHS. I'm all for every idea to be tabled and debated with in parties, it's healthy for policy and democracy.
But once a decision has been made on policy, a leader must be statesman-like and sing from the same hymn sheet as the members and politicians in his parties. In short Mr Farage needs to let this idea of an insurance based system go. I really can't see the idea (as sensible as it sounds to me) gaining any serious traction with in UKIP or the general public.
My tale of woe with our NHS;
For me personally I struggle to put the NHS anywhere near the top of the agenda. It's well behind the economy, education, the EU, immigration, and defence. To be honest with my readers I'm very open minded to the idea of an insurance based system, and I would be very mindful of ruling the idea out in the way that Louise Bours seems to be doing.
However, where I live I struggle to see my registered doctor. I'm forever seeing a Duty Doctor and going to a walk in centre. In fact, my experience of the NHS in this country hasn't been particularly good so far in my life.
UKIP seems to be confused on its NHS policy and successive governments seem to be running it like a drunk man carrying a chandelier with some expensive crystals hanging from it; very fragile indeed and very expensive if you drop it and break it. So let's get a grip across all the parties and save our NHS before it's too late.
As a footnote to all the confusion of the NHS here is a tweet from Patrick O Flynn;
Now I've watched Nigel campaign for a referendum BEFORE exiting the EU, so why is one of his current MEPs saying this on twitter? I offer UKIP a public right of reply to this.