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Published on November 13th, 2013 | by Oliver Campbell
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David Cameron is not the defender of the NHS

In last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions Ed Miliband emphasised the problems that Accident and Emergency units are facing, calling the current situation a ‘crisis’. David Cameron vehemently denied this suggestion; quoting statistics that he claimed proved waiting times were being met. He also highlighted how his government had already prepared for the testing winter months by setting aside £250 million.

Despite this confident response from David Cameron though, I claimed in my PMQ’s blog last week that it was the Prime Minister who came off worse in this debate. This is due to the frankly ludicrous claim made by David Cameron that ‘Labour never stand up for the NHS’, unlike his government.

It is a return to the old cliché argument that the Tories are anti NHS, and maybe this is a harsh generalisation, however they are certainly not doing the NHS any favours.

Cameron claimed last week that Labour’s poor management of the NHS in Wales (the only Labour controlled NHS) evidenced his point that Labour does not stand up for the NHS. However this is a poor approach, as the 1% cut implemented by Labour to the Welsh NHS was due to the coalition cutting the budget of the Welsh National Assembly by £2 billion.

In fact if David Cameron wants to speak about poor management then he should look at his own government. In the recent reorganisation of the NHS by the coalition 2300 managers have received six figure payoffs, many of whom are then rehired, costing the government around £1 billion. This is exacerbated by the fact that spending cuts have seen 20000 nursing posts left empty leading Howard Catton (head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing) to say that the latest government figures do not fully reflect the ‘shortages’ of nurses at ‘ward level’.

The Prime Minister boasted at last weeks PMQ’s of how he had made sure that the health budget has not been subject to cuts, however again this is missing the point. The NHS budget will only grow by 0.1% in 2015-16, which has led health service officials to predict a shortfall of £30 billion by 2020.

This fact is made worse by the cuts to Social Care that were discussed at lengths earlier on in the year. This is because the social care system and the health care system are inextricably linked, a fact made even more relevant when Britain’s ageing population is taken into account.  In the three years leading up to April 2013, £2.7 billion has been taken out of adult social care services. These cuts to social care have put the system under enormous pressure, which in turn have resulted in problems for the NHS. Nigel Edwards, senior fellow at the King’s Fund Think Tank, has pointed to this describing how a “lack of capacity in the social care system”, has put more people into beds in A&E meaning “it takes longer to move people out of A&E (and) into another ward”.

David Cameron defence at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions was therefore weak. The Health and Social Care alone emphasises a government not willing to support the NHS. This Act brought competition further into the NHS, a fact that the Prime Minister continually points to as being essential in all areas of government. Competition should be kept out of the NHS when possible, as the very idea of profit and health care being linked is undesirable. I am by no means putting Labour forward as the shining beacon of light for the NHS; you just have to look at the Blair years to see that this isn’t the case. However what I am hoping is David Cameron starts to accept that he isn’t the great defender of the NHS. It’s not only laughable but also insulting to those that work in it.

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About the Author

Oliver Campbell

Oliver is from Harrow and has just graduated from the University of Leicester with a degree in History. He is now volunteering at Catch21 Productions and is particularly interested in welfare policy and the influence of the media.

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