We’re only a couple of weeks into 2017 and already the NHS is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Hardly a day has gone by without a front page story in the national press about A&E waiting times, bed blocking, health tourism or some other supposed crisis.
As far as the media is concerned, the NHS is an easy target. We all pay for it, we all use it and we all have an opinion on it. However, the headlines rarely look at the underlying causes of the problems in the NHS.
Jeremy Hunt, the increasingly bewildered looking Health Secretary, often gets much of the blame. While it is undeniably true that he often looks like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights, it’s not entirely his fault. The reforms introduced by his predecessor Andrew Lansley, which included abolishing Strategic Health Authorities and setting up a network of GP led Clinical Commissioning Groups, have caused countless problems.
Nor is it all the fault of the Conservatives. Many NHS Trusts are saddled with ruinously expensive repayments on the PFI deals which they were forced to enter into by the last Labour Government.
The media often criticise the NHS for the number of PR staff it employs. I feel that this is not a valid criticism. Having worked with a couple of NHS bodies in recent years, I am conscious that much of their work is directed towards encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles. Surely prevention is better than cure?
At the end of the day, we all want an NHS which is free at the point of delivery. But if we are going to continue to provide that to a population which is getting bigger, older and more obese, then at some point we will have to bite the bullet and pay more in tax. The irony is that those media outlets which are calling for increased NHS spending are the same ones which go nuclear at the very mention of tax increases.