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The NHS needs an urgent prescription to save lives says Dr Alex Ashman, co-leader of the National Health Action Party

National Health Action Party press release 8 January 2017

Dr Alex Ashman, newly elected co-leader of the NHA, statement on the Red Cross’ humanitarian intervention

“There are calls for funding for the NHS from every direction right now, as a result of the Red Cross interventions and the deaths in Worcestershire. But they are met with questions as to how the tax is to be raised to pay for it. The one thing that every doctor and member of NHS staff knows is that when you are treating a patient in need of urgent care here in the UK you don’t check for their credit card first.

When the stability of the banking sector was threatened in 2008 there was hardly time to draw breath before £375bn of quantitative easing was created to restore order. The Treasury and the Bank of England put in extensive contingency planning to ensure that there was no excessive market reaction after the EU referendum. Yet for our health and other support services there's no new money, just existing budgets being cannibalised. Money is taken from hospital budgets in an unsuccessful attempt to plug the social care gaps. Public health budgets for long term preventative strategies are being pillaged to prop up the NHS in the short term.
So I want to put the question: which do you think matters most, the figures on a balance sheet or the lives of patients which are literally hanging in the balance from a lack of facilities to care for them properly?

The collapse of the NHS is a crisis of the same magnitude as the financial crises. We cannot wait for a Budget Statement or a decision about taxation – that can come later when the government assesses its accounts. Action is needed, immediately, to safeguard our nation's health.

As a doctor I am writing a prescription for Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens:

  • Halt the Sustainability and Transformation Plans and the 5 Year Forward View immediately. The shrinking of the NHS that will result from their implementation will worsen the current crisis.
  • Stop the closure of A&Es and hospitals across the country. If the pressure on existing services is unbearable, how could cutting services make it any better?
  • Authorise the Treasury to issue funds to cover the immediate financial crisis, sufficient to stabilise the existing services. Instruct the Clinical Commissioning Groups to make clinical decisions for the benefit of patients, rather than financial decisions for the benefit of the private sector.
  • Tackle the real humanitarian crisis that your policies have brought about first, and sort out the tax regime you think necessary to keep the NHS publicly funded later. It can wait. Lives can’t.
  • Start reversing the three decades of marketisation and privatisation of the NHS. Spending billions hiring bureaucrats to run tenders and write contracts is a terrible waste of NHS funds.
  • Be honest with the public about current events. We know that a political and ideological decision has been made to reduce the NHS to a second class service for those who can't afford to pay. We are calling you out on it. People are dying because of your political choices. It's time to face the consequences.

- ends -
Notes:
Dr Ashman is a surgical registrar who joined the NHA in 2012 having seen first hand the effects of marketisation and privatisation on the NHS. He has been on the NHA national executive committee since 2013. At the 2016 AGM of 17 December he was elected to one of the party co-leader roles.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nhs-british-red-cross-hospitals-volunteers-land-rover-winter-pressure-emergency-a7514526.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/06/three-deaths-worcestershire-royal-hospital-nhs-winter-crisis

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