Only Nigel Farage is telling the truth about the NHS

NHS ward
NHS ward

When attempting to gather political support for my campaign to reopen our empty cancer centres, I emailed a great number of MPs from the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and others. I was hopeful they would share the same sense of urgency as me. Getting these facilities reopened would have saved countless lives during the worst cancer backlog I have ever witnessed. I was wrong. The vast majority ignored me, a handful made a token effort but nothing more. One MP genuinely did his best, Sir Graham Brady, and I’m very grateful.

I sincerely asked for help and most couldn’t even be bothered to reply. The election comes round, and all of a sudden I have politicians knocking at my door. Where was that interest when it was needed?

I went into this election with a low opinion of Westminster politics. I was asked to examine the various plans from the main political parties on healthcare and the NHS. Did I expect much? No, not really. More of the same, zero admission of a crisis, general platitudes accounting for nothing and the usual worshipping of the holy shrine of our NHS. There were simply no innovative ideas.

Labour will always be held back by its fanatical devotion to Bevan’s original concept. At least Wes Streeting wants change and seems very capable. But he will be held back by the party’s leftist origin. Its manifesto is packed with the usual humdrum, with no genuine commitment to the radical change that’s required. After 76 years every system surely needs a major overhaul.

The Conservatives? Speaking honestly, I almost didn’t bother reading it. They’ve had fourteen years to sort out this mess, and have objectively failed on all counts. I don’t trust a word they say. There are a few murmurings in their plans which I can agree with. But why should we believe them now? If they thought their changes were so necessary, why haven’t they already been implemented?

I judge people on what they have delivered, not what they say they will deliver. Under their watch the bureaucracy of overpaid apparatchiks sitting in fancy offices well away from the frontline appears to have grown beyond all recognition.  

From the Liberal Democrats, there are a few interesting ideas, particularly on a commitment to named doctors for the elderly and sick. But where would these doctors come from? That patient group requires a lot of time. Just try to get a GP appointment for yourself – it’s not so easy, and they are surely too scared of rocking the professional boat to make the big changes needed. On the whole their plan lacks ambition.

And then I read Reform’s plan. I could have written it myself. Sharp, concise, controversial and radical. We do need something different to get us out of the mess we’re in, and it’s certainly that.

Lifting frontline staff out of paying basic rate tax for three years – common sense. It will help to stop the brutal brain drain we’re experiencing and actually encourage more British youngsters into healthcare. Clever, too, as more senior staff will still pay tax as they are in a different bracket. Ending training caps for medical students and writing off student debt following ten years service. Good idea. Capable staff with ambition, skill and determination can ascend from the bottom to the top. Hospital porter to brain surgeon may at last really be possible. This is a long term plan which won’t see fruition for 5 years – but that’s just the attitude we need.

Tax relief of 20 per cent on all private healthcare and insurance. Fantastic. It will make healthcare a consumer good leading to far more innovation in its delivery. The usual suspects will moan about privatisation, but quite frankly if hardworking families want to spend more on private healthcare then it should be welcomed and encouraged. It will benefit everyone, freeing up space in the NHS for those who need it. Alongside it is the commitment to properly embrace private healthcare, which would surely help clear the backlog.

Patients within the NHS who can’t see a GP within three days will receive a voucher for private treatment – again, a good idea. Patients should be treated like valued customers, rather than a nuisance to be dealt with.

Finally, and perhaps the most important, cutting waste and unnecessary management. From someone with half a century experience of dealing with the NHS, let me tell you – it is rife with incompetent bureaucrats who contribute nothing to the smooth running of the system. They deliver nothing for patient care, and disrupt the activities of frontline staff doing the actual work.

Armies of PR spin agents, diversity officers and intrusive management many now working from home. Layers and layers of bureaucracy starting with the top in NHS England and the Integrated Care Boards need to be slashed away. That money needs to be redirected to the frontline.

Make no mistake, the NHS is in crisis. We need radical ideas for radical solutions. Reform offers something different. I applaud their efforts.