28 May 2006

Tories better on health? Are people serious? How could they know?

So the Tories are ahead in the polls, but even more frightening is their lead on issues such as health, the environment and education. Issues they have no discernable policies on and an awful track record. This is a ridiculous situation. With David Cameron admitting he hasn't decided his policies, how the hell do the voters know what they are?

I suppose it is governments that lose elections, not oppositions that win them and who could argue that it's not open season on Labour at the moment (although this is always the case with our biased media).

Anyway, here are some comments people made on this BBC website last year just before the general election;

It's interesting that the people who actually work in the health service are the most positive about Labour's track record since taking power. Everyone else's opinion is just negative and media-influenced.

I have had a number of relatively minor operations. When in the hands of the NHS I saw a number of things that I thought could have been improved, and could be a target for Tory denigration, but I could say the same thing for other large well-run organisations such as Tesco, B&Q and so on. The treatment was always friendly and effective. Beforehand, in each case, I priced private treatment. Frightening! I am afraid that very many people would have had to do without.

Last year I was referred to a Coronary Care Unit for Cardiac Surgery. From diagnosis to completion took 10 weeks; the total cost, was £28,000.

My elderly mother's prescriptions would cost in excess of £20K per annum. No private health insurance would pay for that.

I have been a nurse for 23 years. Whatever the Tories say, I can tell you the NHS is infinitely better under Labour. I am a cardiac nurse specialist, and I can tell you that in cardiac care things are a lot better. It's not perfect but I will leave you with these examples. Under the Tories you could wait for two years for a coronary artery by-pass operation. In Manchester and throughout most of the UK there is no waiting list now. When you see the surgeon you basically book the date of your operation. Also under the Tories you could wait 18 months for an angiogram. The wait now for non-urgent cases is three months and improving. If the Tories get in God help the NHS.

I run a busy ward in a cardiac centre in London. Undoubtedly, I have many disagreements with Labour health policy, but remember well my first years in the NHS under a Tory government. Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen Blair reversing some of the disastrous Tory policies, but remember, they were Tory policies.

In 1997, when the Conservatives were in power, my father died from complications following an MRSA infection. I was an NHS manager having close dealings with cleaning contracts at that time. Those contracts were taken away from loyal hospital-employed staff and given out to private contractors.

I know there has been cutbacks in some areas of the NHS (even job losses) but do the Tories really deserve to be ahead on an issue they have no policies for and where they have such an awful record?

The Tory led government we are sleepwalking towards won't cut bureaucracy and management consultants.

It was Thatcher who gave us masses of Quangos, politicised the civil service and centralised control in London emasculating local government.

By 1995 the Tory Govt were spending over £100m per year on management consultants and this practise was rapidly expanding as internal markets and PFIs took hold (Francis Wheen - How Mumbo Jumbo conquered the world p56).

The semi-privatised prison service was in chaos as rapists and murderers were escaping (remember Derek Lewis and the mess Michael Howard was in).

Some of the recent press headlines are a scandalous misrepresentation of the facts as some of these scandals date from 1984, 1987 and 1994. The Tories were allowing foreign rapists and murderers to stay in the country and putting private agencies in charge of prisons who were then letting prisoners escape.

Just as privatisation started under Callagham and was expanded under Thatcher/Major, the management culture started under Thatcher, expanded under Major and has unfortunately accelerated under Blair (though as a percentage of total spend it hasn't). I tend to think that competence levels between Labour and Tory are similar. If anything Labour are slightly better.

People might think 'time for a change'. And a change is what they will get under the Tories, but it won't be the change we all want. The Tories will cut frontline services before they touch the management consultants and bureaucracy (if they touch them at all). The Tories past record is poor.

Every government wants to improve competence and efficiency and if it was easy the present government would be doing it.

Just remember it is the spin of Cameron (he is Thatcherite underneath that thin veneer), the control freakery of his A-lists, and just look at the sort of people Cameron chooses. Are the voters expected to trust people like this? Don't do it.


  1. The Tories lead in the polls on public services has been mis represented, Their numbers have hardly moved! Labour has just gone down, Only 29% think the Tories are the best on health! And their Nowhere near leading on the issue that matters, The economy.

  2. Heavens.

    Neil Harding. I must be temperate, because he is a nurse-specialist. We now live in the world of the "nurse-specialist". They look after the poor people, whilst Tony and Cherie, and Liz and Pip, and all those people in BUPA see doctors.

    Neil's post is a string of anecdotes roughly held together by the glue of his personal political ideology. He is a paid up New Labour supporter - nothing wrong with that, it is his life - and he writes from that perspective.

    I do not belong to any political party. However, like Neil, I voted for Tony Blair in 1997. I really thought he was going to make a difference to health care and education, the two things that are most important to me.

    The New Labour Health Care policies have had some success. Frankly, you cannot spend that sort of money without, even accidentally, getting something right. Access to hospital diagnostic service for patients with cancer is better than it was. Patients on waiting lists for hernias and varicose veins get seen a little quicker.

    The downside however, is huge. Morale in the NHS is worse than I have ever known it. Project 2000 encouraged nurses to leave real nursing, and become irritating technocrats preteneding to be doctors, whilst patients now lie on wards starving and dying of bedsores becasue no one can be bothered to care for them. Hospitals are filthy. We have one of the worse MRSA rates in Europe. That is not anecdote, Neil, it is fact. Access to urgent surgery is patchy. Neil might have got one of his family through quickly. I work in a practice of 18000 patients, and we find it harder to access decent hospital care for them than it has ever been. I have had patients die waiting for CABGs. I have three patients on the waiting list for the cardiac surgery that the prime minister had "on the NHS" without waiting at all. The government is cutting services across the board either by abolishing them altogether, or dumbing them down so that jobs that should be done by doctors are now being done by nurses and others who have neither the intelligence nor the training to do the job properly. General practice is being destroyed and turned into an immediate access walk-in service, available 24 hours a day but frontended by nurses and EMTs.

    I could go on. Well, I do go on frequently on NHS BLOG DOCTOR.

    I partially agree with Neil that, as yet, the boy David has not pulled anything out of the hat to make me think that the Tories know how to turn it round, but that does not in anyway justify the status quo.


    I posted this on the DK too, who drew my attention to your post.

  3. Neil

    Take a look at this and talk me through it:



  4. this government couldnt run a bath witness the nhs 15000 redundant nurses
    the home office in meltdown
    the armed forces loads of wars and 10000 redundant raf personel
    43% of all our money they spend and fuck all to show for it

  5. John, your politcs are right-wing, so you see everything through that perspective.

    Is it possible to be working hard doing a valuable job in the NHS and be left wing? Well yes it is, and there are many (maybe a majority of) people in the NHS who would disagree with your analysis and especially your ideas of how to sort out NHS problems.

    Yes we do have one of the worst MRSA problems in the EU, we also have some of the poorest paid cleaning staff in our hospitals and we all know the Tories putting cleaning contracts out to private companies was a disaster.

    The basic facts are that we spend less on our healthcare than France and Germany do, so to say the NHS is awash with cash is inaccurate.

    To say the NHS is more inefficient doesn't stand up to scrutiny either, since in the US they spend twice per head what we do, yet the majority are faced with worse healthcare than us.

    According to WHO we are 18th in the world on overall healthcare outcomes but only 26th in the world on per capita spend, compared to the US who are 37th in the world on outcomes but 1st on per capita spend. This suggests that by international comparison, the NHS is highly efficient.

    In any organisation the size of the NHS, it will always be possible on a daily basis to find significant errors, faults, even horror stories, but we should put that into the perspective of the millions of people who receive excellent care they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Those on the right don't care about these people, those on the left however think that tax cuts are less important than this fact.