Old Joseph Goebells had it right: “Tell a lie big enough and often enough and it will be accepted as the truth.” If the old Nazi were alive today he’d see his philosophy being emulated in the daily furore over the NHS. 

“It’s being deliberately under-funded,” is the cry from what remains of Corbyn’s party. “The Tories are deliberately running it into the ground; they secretly want to privatise it.”

It’s age-old dogma that fuels their hatred of anyone who disagrees with them. Their claims are blatantly untrue but this doesn’t matter: many folk believe it because they’ve read it so often, although always when Labour is in Opposition.

It’s quite different when they’re in Government, of course, and on another of their non-stop spending sprees. No one complains then, although the problems of the NHS are perpetual, they don’t change with the government.

Because the NHS is like a bottomless well: we could throw money at it ad infinitum and still not solve the inherent problems, nor satisfy those to whom it has priority over everything else in the national infrastructure.

The reasons for this are varied and obvious to those not tainted by political dogma or self-interest. Most pointedly, the NHS is over-worked for two main reasons: the inordinate demand consequent to the growth and greater longevity of the population, allied to uncontrolled immigration; and the progress in medical research that has brought successful treatments that were unknown when the service was founded in 1948.

To the obvious financial demands of this resultant expansion are added the costs of running the NHS, not least the staffing of an organisation that has been described as the world’s biggest employer, with 1.318 million staff in 2015.

In that year the NHS employed 149,808 doctors, 314,966 qualified nursing staff and health visitors, 25,418 midwives, 23,066 GP practice nurses, 146,792 qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff, 18,862 qualified ambulance staff and 30,952 managers.

Those who cry “Tory cuts” should know a further indication of demand and growth is shown by the increase in medical staff under the Tories.

There were 32,467 additional doctors employed in the NHS in 2014 compared to 2004, when Labour held the reigns. More, the number has increased by an annual average of 2.5 per cent over that time. There were 18,432 more NHS nurses in 2014 compared to ten years earlier, when Labour was in Government. The number has increased by an annual average of 0.5 per cent over that period, since David Cameron became prime minister.

The increase in staff numbers has perforce been reflected by the increase in expenditure. In 2005/6 net expenditure was £75.822 billion; in 2016/17 it was £117.2 billion, which is 7.2 per cent of GDP and a sum expected to rise to £120.26 billion in 2019/20. Health expenditure per capita in England has risen from £1,868 in 2010/11 to £2,057 in 2014/15. That’s per person, for those not familiar with the vernacular. Some cuts, eh? Some desecration!

Another couple of points are worth considering here: managers and senior managers accounted for 2.35 per cent of the 1.318 million staff across the NHS in 2015. This was a slight increase, the numbers having declined in each of the previous four years. However the 30,952 was the second lowest total since 2009.

In 2008/09 the management costs had fallen from 5.0 per cent in 1997/98 under Labour to 3.0 per cent under the Tories. This was the only figure to decrease in all the statistics available. Some might say this was justifiable or at least timely: a common criticism of the NHS is that it has too many empire-building officials, the paper pushers who call all the management shots and control the purse strings.

The Tories effected this reduction, but of course no credit was given in fact it was not generally known. Maybe these are “the cuts” the Left has been raving about?

The fact is that no matter which Tory is Minister for Health the allegations of “cuts” would continue because the plethora of problems associated with such a monolithic organisation are insoluble and thus fodder to the Left who view spending as the only solution.

The position is the poisoned chalice of politics. All a Tory incumbent can do is get on with it and ignore the anguished protests.

*The statistics quoted have been drawn from the website of the NHS Confederation. See http://www.nhsconfed.org/resources.

 

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