Blogpost: By Dr Emil Shehadeh
DESPITE all the fear-mongering and the gloomy predictions of the remain campaign, the exit campaign has won the Brexit vote. Mr Cameron has acted honourably and will be resigning. This is a political earthquake which will and should impact the NHS. Initially the EUand its friends and bards will try and punish us, if not to fulfil their own prophecy.
What does Brexit mean for the NHS? What lessons should the ruling classes learn about how to manage the NHS?
The first and foremost is that ordinary people want a say in running the NHS. They want no bureaucracy, the EU being the master of bureaucracy. People want their voices heard and taken seriously. What we saw is that every previous prime minister, the current prime minister, all the major institutions and 95% of labour MPs support the remain campaign. In doing so, the political classes have proven to be out of touch with the public, whom they represent. In like manner, at the moment the NHS has a pyramid structure that pays no respect to competency nor does it listen to its workers.
The ordinary person in the street wants improved access to their GP and A&E, not more quality checks and box-ticking. The political elite of the NHS, often totally bereft of common sense, dictate to the most intelligent people in society. Mindless activities and interventions are imposed on doctors and nurses by people who are utterly clueless, though they are powerful. This is peril incarnate.
The remain campaign was manipulative and selective with the truth. People wanted their concerns addressed, mainly controlled immigration and their impacts on schools and the NHS. Instead, the remain campaign talked about money and trade, and mounted a personal assault on the leading personalities of the leave campaign.
The lesson is for the political elite to stop dancing round the subject, making misleading pronouncements and instead to address public concerns. The recent junior doctors’ strike is really about honesty and openness in politics, or lack of it. If you want a seven day NHS, you must employ more doctors nurses and ancillary staff.
This is what the public and professionals are saying. Instead Mr Hunt slashed the out of hours pay by 50%, and told the public he had increased junior doctors’ pay by 13%! He did not tell them that all he had planned to do was shift the problem from the weekend to weekdays!
The second issue is that the net contributions to the EU should be ploughed into the NHS. The next PM should make it their aim to act with integrity and increase the NHS funding from 6% to 9% of GDP, in line with most European countries who are less wealthy than us. Or else, they should stop claiming a world-class NHS. People are not stupid.
A suspected cancer case has to wait 2-3 weeks for the first appointment, and two to three more weeks for their first investigation. This is not a world-class NHS. This is an underfunded NHS in a country with wrong priorities. The next government must whittle down the very costly civil service and spend money on front-line NHS services.
This leads me to the third point. The people have told the political classes, in no uncertain terms, that the NHS must be protected from abuse. It should stop functioning as the International Health Service and focus on the nation’s health. No one could accuse the UK of being ungenerous. Our track record of foreign aid and disaster relief is enviable.
However, we should exercise more control over whom we treat. This is neither racist nor xenophobic. It is fair, just and prudent. We have seen, time and again, how overcrowded immigrant boats have drowned in the Mediterranean. The same would happen to the NHS if we fail to exercise control over our borders and continue to burden the NHS beyond its capacity.
There will be a new government in October. Earthquakes, and the Brexit vote has been such, may bring pain. But they are, like forest fires, an opportunity to rebuild a new and better future, a better NHS. Will this be the beginning of a better funded, better protected NHS? Time will tell.