The NHS Election
Five months to go until the UK heads to the polls. Russell Brand is imploring the youth not to vote, which at least gives the main parties one less headache as they don’t have to worry about creating policies to appease the young whilst simultaneously addressing the Greens, UKIPers and Scots.
The only thing that is certain about the coming election is that it’s going to be interesting. We’re faced with the highly likely prospect of a coalition government of one form or another, very possibly with one or more of the above playing a part…
One area that all of the above can overtly agree on is that the NHS must be protected at all costs; re-organised/re-targeted, maybe but refinanced always. The UK’s macro-economics and demographics are well publicised and accordingly the Healthcare budget has doubled from c£60bn to over c£120bn since 2003. As a percentage of GDP at c6.5% it’s almost twice that of when it was founded in 1948 at c3.5%. (source: House of Commons Library)
Spending time talking to the Chairman and CEOs of the UK’s large and small private healthcare organisations is a fascinating part of my occupation. With good friends on both sides of the Public/Private interface I will always defend both. Healthcare is certainly not an easy way to make money and so, despite what some commentators suggest, it’s not about that for those on either side of the divide. Equally and rightly, nothing that either side does will ever be good enough. This is an industry born from the academia that Healthcare ultimately is: learning, developing, improving and innovating in order to preserve life and the quality of it. It’s this element that I believe makes many of the ideological arguments somewhat redundant as those in the industry ultimately only want the best for patients.
Back to the electoral question, and the straw poll I’ve been conducting with senior members of the private sector. The results have proved somewhat counter-intuitive… basically from a business perspective the private sector want Labour to win. It’s been unanimous from those I’ve met. Whatever their personal persuasions, they have all said their businesses will do better under Labour.
Slightly flummoxed by this assertion I’ve been inquiring further? Their reasoning is thus:
The Tory’s broad aims have been to reduce spending and, in their words, ‘make the NHS more efficient.’ Therefore, where outsourcing has been required, prices have been driven lower. There have been opportunities for joint ventures etc, however this has been within a framework of heavy media scrutiny where any suggestion of privatisation has been headline news. Their coalition partners are quick to show areas of difference should outsourcing or privatisation be on the cards.
In order for Labour to achieve their political healthcare objectives they will be required to use private providers; therefore handing the power over pricing back to those very providers as it was during the last Labour administration. Many of today’s crop of private operators came into being, or saw their most rapid growth, under the last administration. The press will moan, but the argument will be “its worse under the Tories.”
In short the Tories would like to privatise, but can’t. Labour don’t want to privatise but can’t not.
Whatever your views on the matter, and most people have many, it’s an interesting predicament that the politicians find themselves in, yet one of their own political making. Maybe the UK public would be ready for a more honest debate or maybe not? Or maybe the people who will be paying for it the longest should tell us what they think? At the ballet box Russell…
Arden Tomison, Director
News & Insight