Monday 8 June 2009

Is the NHS better under Labour

Just responded to a post on healthactivists about is the NHS really any better under Labour with all the wasted money on failed IT schemes and PFI projects.

I can really only talk about the NHS as I can see it. I've worked for Yeovil District Hospital since 1996 but haven't worked anywhere else in the NHS.

A lot of money has been wasted, I could reel off a whole ream of non-jobs created like public relations officers, Directors of Strategy (I still don't know what they are meant to do) and paying the likes of KPMG to management consult us. Money has been wasted on paying private providers to do operations that they didn't do and on PFI schemes where we keep the risk and private companies get all the profit.

But is the NHS better now than it was in 1997? That's an unqualified yes. In 1995 my nan fell down and broke her wrist, I spent time in Southampton General Hospital's A&E with her, it took 13 hours for her to be treated. At the time, the papers were full of A&E waits of 2 or 3 days, now YDH's A&E easily makes the 4 hour target and that's without doing any cheating. When I first started at Yeovil, the local paper was campaigning against a postcode lottery, Dorset patients had a maximum waiting list (from outpatient to treatment) of 12 months while Somerset HA were okay with their patients waiting 18 months.

We used to close wards towards the end of the year for "redecoration" but really to save money, letting the waiting list bloat and if patients really wanted treatment, they could pay their NHS consultants to go private. Now that simply doesn't happen, we achieved 13 weeks referral to treatment for 2008/09 and in most specialties managed 10 weeks. We have more nurses, more doctors, more porters, more cleaners, more physios etc though obviously the numbers of patients we're seeing is increasing all the time so staffing levels remain a concern.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through some old files in the union office and found some old minutes of our Joint Consultation and Negotiation Committee (JCNC) dating back to 1994/95 before I got involved with the union, at some points the JCNC was meeting three times a month, dealing with redundancies, pitiful local pay offers, outsourcing and prospects of community hospitals closing completely. In the Labour period we brought everything outsourced back in house, there's been Agenda for Change replacing our local pay awards. some real job security.

Could it be better? Yes, of course, it could always be better, but from where I am this Labour Government will leave the NHS in a far better state than they found it. Despite everything else, they deserve our thanks for that.

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