I remember the Bradford Royal Infirmary very well. A massive Victorian building, it now has glass and steel add-ons in a vain attempt to make it look modern and practical. It is a labyrinth of corridors and rooms and seems very disorganised when you go there.
My two boys were born there and as a copper I was always in Accident and Emergency with assault victims, car crash survivors and people who sadly did not make it. I was there myself too with various injuries sustained by dealing with the great and good of Bradford.
It was always very hot in there, airless and oppressive. The only shining light were the staff. People run around in various coloured uniforms and white coats. No one looks at anyone, not out of rudeness but an obvious stress that is palpable. The people who work here are collectively marvelous. They work in a Victorian building in a modern fast moving chaotic but much- loved institution which was, but is not now, in any respects, the envy of the world.
The NHS is a political football and has been for all my lifetime. Unless it is wrested from the hands of successive governments and politicians of all colours it always will be. Each change of government brings with it a fiddling interference which, together with absolutely vast amounts of money has never brought peace and quiet to the service. The money thrown at it is staggering and yet we still have the problems running through its veins that we had in the seventies, eighties and nineties, yes problems from the last century are still there.
Money does not alone solve the problems, it is a sticking plaster over an ever widening fissure. The trusts cannot be fit for purpose. The salaries and subsequent pensions of chiefs and their management teams are so way beyond the achievability of the front- line staff, it is embarrassing. A person who wields a scalpel and cuts into a human body to make it better should in my opinion be paid much more than the person who signs off the time slot for the operation.
PFI contracts introduced by John Majors Government and expanded by Andy Burnham of Labour with gusto are one of the reasons the NHS is in such a mess. A hospital costing £170 million to build initially, but under PFI, when finally paid off, will have cost £980 million – it just makes no sense.
In the truest sense, “buy now pay later” was the mantra by which Labour sold out the NHS. Current spending of £397 million a week cannot be sustained with the current structure and practices in place. A friend of mine took her daughter for a pre- op appointment. They live four miles from Calderdale Hospital but were sent to Huddersfield hospital nine miles away. The nurse who attended them when chatting said she had come from Calderdale in a taxi to conduct that one pre-op interview and was going back in a taxi. My friend gave her a lift. I am sure readers of this will have many such and more varied stories.
So, post Brexit what can be done, what should be done? For sure the current status quo cannot continue. The first thing is to stop the lies and deliberate obfuscation by the politicians scared if their own shadows. Yes, the “ageing population” is a fact, we do now, due to strides forward in medical procedures and the pills we take, live longer. Life expectancy in 1840 was 42.2 years and is now 82.8. Those statistics say it all.
But, and it’s a big but, since 2010 it is estimated that 6.7 million people came to this country for whatever reason. This without a shadow of a doubt has had an enormous effect on the viability, short, medium and long term of the NHS. It cannot be disputed that the costs of the influx of people guaranteed access to the NHS, free at the point of use, on both manpower and fiscal are enormous. This must be addressed and costed into future planning.
As I stated earlier, the sooner, the NHS is wrested away from politicians, who have in the main never had a job, the better. Just because someone is promoted to the Secretary of State for National Health does not give them the skill set to manage this office which affects every single person living here.
Why not, for instance on a consultancy basis, give different aspects of the NHS to the business men and women who sit in the Dragons Den? They are all hard- nosed ruthless business people. They have been measured very many times and they know what to do to turn around failing companies and make them viable again. They cut out waste, sack those who are surplus to requirements, those who do not actually contribute to a streamlined successful enterprise. For sure they could not do worse than the MP’s we charge with this task.
We must be prepared to put our big pants on and have a long overdue grown-up conversation about the NHS. A parity between private and public monies needs to be established. Insurance for those who can afford it cannot be ignored. People arriving here on whatever standing they do so will have to pay for a certain amount of time or be told clearly and honestly that they cannot access health care free of charge having contributed nothing.
NHS tourism must stop and stop soon. The very thought that anyone can simply fly into this great country, be given treatments free of charge and fly off home again is an anathema to me. Those against this promulgated the argument that surgeons could not and should not be walking around with credit card machines in their pockets. This is the sort of juvenile nonsense conversation we have all the time.
A change must come. It is going to implode at some time, the sticking plaster is being stretched to breaking point. The fissure is getting much more wider.