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05
Nov

Chris Hopson urges politicians not to ‘weaponise’ the NHS


Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers has issued a plea to politicians to focus on solutions to the real issues facing the NHS in the long-term during this election campaign rather than a “superficial political debate on health and social care,” which would result in the public being let down. 

 

“In our recent survey, more than 90% of senior frontline NHS leaders said they didn’t think that, as a nation, we were having the right debate about the long-term future of the service.”

 

This means the ability of the NHS to provide the right quality of care, being able to take advantage of new technologies in a health and care system facing rapidly rising demand.

 

“Of course we need to be open and honest about where the health service is falling short. It is clear that, despite treating many more patients than ever before, the NHS is falling back against key targets for A&E, cancer care, and diagnostic tests. Waiting lists for operations have climbed to nearly four and a half million and the pressures on our mental health, community and ambulance services are just as great. However hard the NHS frontline works, it can’t seem to keep up with growing demand.

 

“This is particularly worrying with winter looming. But as pressures on the NHS intensify in the coming weeks, over-dramatizing or distorting the difficulties for political ends will do nothing to help those frontline staff who are working flat out for patients. Equally, disingenuous claims about extra funding, or promises that create unrealistic expectations, may be tempting in the heat of the election battle, but they do the health service no favours.”

 

Mr Hopson has challenged politicians to be clear and straight about the numbers, to acknowledge the scale of the funding needing to deliver the services that will meet growing demand and to rebuild the service so it is “fit for the 21st century.” This will involve looking beyond hospitals to the entire service, finding credible solutions to the workforce shortages, including addressing problems such as the pension problems that are driving people away and to ensure any new immigration system enables the NHS and social care services to recruit and retain overseas staff. It will also involve a proper, sustainable and detailed solution to problems in social care.

 

The NHS is always a hot topic for political debate because people care about it – never more so than today. In September, consultancy Prophet, in its fourth annual Brand Relevance Index, reported that the NHS had knocked Apple from the number one spot to become the UK’s most relevant brand.  

 

“Our health service, for all its challenges, continues to command overwhelming public support – the polls show it’s what makes us most proud to be British,” says Mr Hopson. “We need to properly debate what is needed in our taxpayer funded, free to use, NHS to provide the right quality of care and take advantage of exciting medical advances such as genomics, when we know demand for care is going to rise dramatically. NHS performance is now starting to struggle because we are failing to answer this basic question. That’s the kind of NHS election debate we actually need.”

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