The mantra for much of the past two years has been “protect the NHS”, a curious reversal of the traditional relationship between patients and the health service.
Yet, with the pandemic now effectively over, the British public would still have to make sacrifices. Earlier this month, hospitals in the South West of England told people not to undertake DIY for fear of ending up in an overcrowded A&E, while in Dorset they were told to ” stop and think” if they really needed treatment.
This perverse mentality culminated in the decision to raise National Insurance contributions, in blatant violation of the Tory manifesto, to bail the health service out of its post-Covid mess. This additional money will supposedly eventually be transferred to solve this other great state crisis, social protection. Skeptics can be forgiven for waiting to see such a move before believing it will happen. It seems more likely that when the latest cash injection fails to improve performance enough, taxpayers will be asked to spit again, steering Britain in an increasingly socialist direction.
This is a reflection of the ideological confusion of this Conservative government, which seems to have adopted the Brownian logic according to which the efficiency of public services can only be measured by the yardstick of the money allocated to them and not by ideas as old-fashioned as efficiency and results. The harsh truth is that the NHS is falling short of even the most basic expectations. There are now six million people on waiting lists – almost a tenth of the total population – and ambulances can take hours to reach patients without life-threatening conditions.
Plus, the NHS is reeling from another surprisingly horrific scandal. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has ordered a new inquiry into failings in maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust following the death of 30 babies and brain damage to 46 others. It comes just a month after the Ockenden Report found the deaths of 200 babies and nine mothers at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust were preventable.
The left and Britain’s cultural elites would have us believe that the NHS is the new secular national religion. Yet slavish adherence to this idea has left Britain with an unaffordable and failing health service. The West is full of much better systems that are not funded like the NHS is, but our leaders continue to pay homage to the idea that ours is the envy of the world.
If now is not the time to consider radical reform, including funding, when will it be? Don’t the conservatives see the trap into which they have fallen, and for which they will end up paying a heavy electoral price? The answer cannot be more balanced budgets on the backs of struggling taxpayers.