How much does Britain still ‘love’ the NHS?

‘Of course I support the NHS. Everybody supports the NHS, or says they do,’ poked the comedian Frankie Boyle in one of the many campaigns promoting the health service. To admit you don’t believe in this national institution is as taboo as not caring about Britishness, about goodness, about people. The public is keen to find evidence for this collective belief. Nigel Lawson famously said that ‘the NHS is the closest thing the English have to a national religion’ – words which tend to be heard as praise. But his comment was laced with criticism. He continued, ‘with those who practise in it regarding themselves as a priesthood. This made

Ross Clark

The NHS blood tube shortage should concern us

One of the great lessons from the early stages of the pandemic was the need to shorten supply chains and make them more robust. This was especially true for medical supplies. Just-in-time supply chains have been developed over the years to increase efficiency, but had never been tested in a global crisis when demand for certain medical products is high and supply is weak. The government ended up paying huge sums for PPE which, in some cases, was not even suitable for use. The shortage raises eyebrows because a plastic tube is, after all, a plastic tube It seems the lesson has not entirely been learned. There is now a shortage of

Finally, some justice for the infected blood scandal’s victims

Why has the greatest patient scandal in the history of the NHS rumbled on for so long before its victims even start to see justice? It shouldn’t have taken 40 years for there to be an answer Today the government awarded £100,000 in interim compensation to around 4,000 survivors of the contaminated blood scandal, as recommended by Sir Robert Francis, who published a report on the matter earlier this year. They have been fighting for 40 years for justice that, as yet, does not cover the bereaved parents and children of those who were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C when they were given dirty blood products for their haemophilia

How to fix the NHS

That the NHS is in intensive care appears to be beyond doubt. The health service in England needs 12,000 doctors and 50,000 nurses and midwives, and waiting lists are expected to rise to 9.2 million by March 2024. The question now is what to do. It’s a question that has been asked before, and the answers have been poor. One more heave at reform, a task force here, a task force there, another few billion all over the place and all will be well, so the defenders of the NHS claim. What they overlook, however, is that there have been more than a dozen major reform programmes over the past

The NHS failing mothers is nothing new

Can Sajid Javid really say, as he did this afternoon in the Commons, that the government is taking action to ensure ‘that no families have to go through the same pain’ experienced by those affected by the biggest maternity scandal in the history of the NHS? The Ockenden inquiry into the maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust published its final report today, concluding that ‘repeated’ failures in care may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies, and of nine mothers. The individual stories of stillborn babies, infants severely and sometimes fatally harmed, and women’s pain being dismissed are deeply distressing. What is worse

Frustration grows with Boris, but the social care cap passes

MPs have approved the government’s social care cap in the Commons. But the vote doing so was narrow, and there seem to have been a lot of Conservative MPs either abstaining (which would be a rebellion against a three-line whip) or absent. Some will have been unwell, and ‘slipped’, as it is known, for other reasons. But some may have agreed with the whips that their car was due to break down or a tooth due to need emergency dental work, thus preventing them from voting against this controversial amendment. Others, like Matt Hancock, gave such rousing speeches in its favour that casual observers might have been forgiven for thinking

Boris has no answer to the backlog crisis

Jeremy Hunt asked an entirely reasonable question of the Prime Minister today in the Commons — and got an entirely unreasonable answer. Hunt raised an amendment he is tabling which would require Health Education England to produce regular forecasts for the numbers of doctors and nurses that the UK needs to train. This is quite a small thing to ask for, but Johnson’s response was first to dodge his way around the question, and then to turn the issue into a party political attack on Labour. He said: My right hon. friend is absolutely right that we have to ensure that our NHS has the staff that it needs. That

The NHS has never been the ‘envy of the world’

Usually when the Commonwealth Fund releases its ‘Mirror, Mirror’ study of healthcare systems, it makes waves across the UK media. You might not recognise the formal title of the study, but you’ll be familiar with its findings: this outlier research tends to rank the UK National Health Service as one of the best healthcare systems in the developed world. It’s a hallowed report for much of the UK medical community and commentariat, reaffirming their unquestioning devotion to the NHS as a truly unique system and the ‘envy of the world’. While other healthcare assessments – from the OECD, European Health Consumer Index, and World Health Organisation, to name a few

Are public health cuts to blame for the UK’s pandemic response?

As we begin to learn best practice in the fight against Covid-19, it is notable that the handful of countries that have reduced the number of new cases to zero have used diagnostic testing and contact tracing on a large scale and have recommended the use of face masks. After two frantic months, the UK has just about got a handle on testing, but its embryonic contact tracing app has the hallmarks of every government IT fiasco, and there are barely has enough face masks for health workers, let alone the general public. No country can prepare perfectly for a new viral pandemic, but Britain’s public health system has fallen