The Green Party has always seen ‘health’ as including every aspect of social life. As a county councillor, I spent seven years integrating health and social care. We did useful work, but the savings were small. This particular article, therefore, is about money.
To continue with our current level and quality of healthcare provision, we need to spend £30 billion a year more in 2020- 21 than we do now. The government has proposed an increase of £8 billion, with the gap filled by ‘efficiency savings’. They propose integration, moving services from hospitals to the community and the creation of cheaper auxiliary doctors and nurses. Fully-trained GPs are to work with the severely ill and disabled; the rest of us would be seen by science graduates with two years’ medical training. There is no evidence that this can work.
The government has divided the country into 44 NHS ‘footprints’, each submitting a ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ (STP) to achieve those cuts. Closing wards and hospitals will save money, but this cannot be done without huge damage. There is no excess provision. Already, most hospitals frequently have too many patients. I was on the advisory panel for the Healthwatch England study, which found large numbers of unsafe discharges due to bed pressures.
The Green Party has long campaigned to fully fund the NHS and social care, as there is no reason Britain cannot afford to spend as much as our European neighbours. Lib Dems and Labour are increasingly attacking the proposed cuts. We welcome that. The Lib Dems have begun to discuss raising taxes. Labour’s plan links increases in NHS funding to increases in National Income. This would be similar to Tory funding and a disaster. Unless they commit to full funding, Labour’s campaign will be rubbished.
The NHS is vital to most people, of all parties and none. An honest campaign will win.