The future of the NHS is one of the biggest focuses of this election campaign, with all parties big and small explaining why their improvement ideas are ideal, and why their rivals’ policies will result in a return to using leeches and casting spells.
But, in reality, all of the plans championed by the main parties are flimsy at best: they all consist of pumping vast sums of money into the health service for a few years and, er, that’s it. The massive inefficiencies, questionable management and patient well being all disappear into the abyss simply because big numbers look good on campaign posters. (Personally, the only thing I find more persuading than a massive number is a huge photograph of a middle-aged man holding a pint and rambling on about Romanians).
Surprisingly, though, there is an often overlooked party that is proposing a plausible alternative.
The National Health Action (NHA) party is a small organisation, fielding just twelve candidates in May’s election. Their main aim, unsurprisingly, is to ensure that the NHS provides the best service possible by enforcing a thirteen point plan.
The brilliance of this plan is that it is seemingly very simply and yet also very robust. The NHA appear to be the only political party in history to understand the meaning of “common sense.” Ed Miliband has been hurling the phrase around for weeks in relation to Labour’s spending cuts, and yet has failed to elaborate at all; surely it is common sense to explain what he means by common sense?
One pledge of the NHA is to reform the NHS so that patients and staff are listened to by creating a Health Ombudsman. At the moment we have the Care Quality Commission to register concerns with, but it’s rubbish; it would be more useful to complain to a drunken Welshman. The health service is not going to improve if problems in its functioning are ignored, making an independent and useful watchdog vital.
The NHA plan to raise the NHS’s budget by 4% a year in addition to ensuring that resources are in plentiful supply. This provides a far better alternative than mindlessly throwing money to try and fill a spending gap that clearly requires strategic economic thinking.
Many of the pledges are obvious – argued for by the public for years – but have oddly been ignored by other political parties (because aren’t voters stupid)? One is to reduce the service’s needs for management consultants (some of whom are almost as greedy as Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling), subsequently increasing the influence of health professionals who care about patients rather than pushing pens. This is an obvious solution which can be applied to all public sectors that are drowning in red tape. During this parliament, David Cameron has announced countless times that he will crackdown on bureaucracy and yet he hasn’t even broken a pencil nib.
Another is to stop the expensive and considerably dubious PFI deals, which are costing NHS Trusts millions of pounds. It is also recommended that the NHS’s purchasing authority should be used to enable reduced costs on essentials such as medicines, thus saving money and allowing the service access to drugs currently unavailable due to their expense. With ideas this simple being ignored for so long, it’s almost as though the other political parties don’t want the NHS to survive…
The NHA is a fine example of how great expertise in a specialist field can help solve a problem in a relevant subject. OK, so they’re not going to be running the country in May, but they at least have the potential to cause severe upset. And in five years’ time, who knows? Remember David and Goliath? Now all we need is a chain of Action Parties, sorting out the issues with every other government body.