Dr Michelle Tempest is an NHS hospital doctor and prospective parliamentary candidate for North West Durham.
The NHS is vast. It treats over one million patients every 36 hours and employs more people than the combined populations of Birmingham and Coventry. David Cameron has made the NHS his number one political priority. With headlines about Britain’s booming birth rate and bursting maternity units, this article examines how the NHS is coping, and considers the possible merits of calling healthcare town hall meetings as recently adopted in America.
The NHS is over sixty years old. During that time there have been significant social, demographic and technological changes. Healthcare services need to keep pace with society. Political planning has to recognise that things have altered radically since the inception of the NHS. Spending on the NHS has increased from £437 million (roughly £9 billion at today’s value) in 1948 to £100 billion in 2009. It’s a huge increase. Since Labour came to power they have increased the annual NHS budget by £66 billion. Money has poured in, but have the results kept pace?
The sad fact is that vast sums of money have been completely wasted, such as £12 billion squandered on the white elephant NHS IT system. As a hospital doctor, I have first hand experience of how taxpayers’ money has been spent on creating tick-box targets and layers of bureaucracy. Rather like Upstairs, Downstairs. Labour has left ‘us’ (patients and clinical staff) in the basement and ‘them’ (managers and politicians) up in the ivory tower, far far away from the front line. It’s clear from the numbers. NHS hospital managers have mushroomed to 39,900, exceeding the 34,900 clinical consultants.