Thank you for getting in touch with me about the NHS. For good reason, the NHS has an almost talismanic status in British political debate. Fundamentally I am in favour of the underlying principle of a national, universal health service which is free at the point of need.
I have a young family and thanks to the NHS, I know I can take my children to my GP or hospital and have any issue dealt with quickly, professionally and without having to worry about how much it will cost. No-one should have to consider whether an insurance premium will rise or whether they should find a cheaper option when looking for help because they or a family member is ill.
I believe that we got it right when the NHS was set up, that the founding principles, that healthcare meets the needs of everyone, that it is free at the point of delivery and that it is based on clinical need, not ability to pay are the only basis for a decent and fair healthcare system.
This doesn’t mean however, that I think the NHS doesn’t need to evolve and change with the times. The healthcare needs of society today are very different to those 50 years ago. As an example – we need to spend far more than ever before on dementia care for the elderly – something which was virtually unheard of when the NHS was founded.
In his 5 Year Forward View describing one suggested future for the NHS, Simon Stephens (Head of NHS England) calculates that in 5 years’ time there is potentially a £30Billion funding gap between the ‘No Real Terms Cuts’ position that most politicians are making, and the needs of the NHS as currently structured. No major party is even coming close to committing this amount of money, or suggesting ways in which the future NHS can be efficiently funded.
This is why privatisation is seen as almost inevitable by some people, and why those such as myself who believe in the founding principle of ‘free at the point of need’ and are against privatisation need to be very clear about what efficiency savings can be made, or where additional funds would come from. (As an aside, personally I think that privatisation has the habit of saving money in the short-term, but costing more in the long-term – it is for this reason that I think that it has no place in an NHS if we want our health service to be sustainable in the long-term, for the benefit of our children and future generations)
If we are prepared to think differently however, there is an alternative. One of the key planks of Pirate Party policy is to abolish Drug Patents. We believe that knowledge should be free to all, and research should be for the common good. Currently the Big Pharma companies spend more on marketing than they do on research. The savings from not wasting precious resources on marketing could be as much as £5Bn from AstraZeneca alone.
Additionally, we need to think more holistically about Healthcare and the way in which it works in society. We need to do far more work on early intervention and encouraging lifestyle change. As a party which believes in evidence based policy we think that money should be spent where it has the best long-term effects for society as a whole.
As an example, if we increased the percentage of those who cycle to work or school in Lambeth from 1% to 20% (as in the Netherlands or Denmark) this could save huge amounts of money for the Health Service due to society as a whole being healthier. This would mean less obesity, less air pollution driven breathing difficulties, fewer mental health issues – all of which save the NHS money that can be spent on nurses, midwives and doctors that ensure that we can all receive quality care when we need it most. At the moment however, there is departmental silo-ing in Government such that interventions in one area which save money from another department’s future budget are not given the priority deserved. I would seek to change this culture and approach.
This was originally written as a response to a number of inquiries from various potential constituents expressing concern about NHS Privatisation and asking what the Pirate Party would do.
Think Different. Vote Different. Vote Pirate