It’s difficult to think of a more inappropriate person to be Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He has all the bedside manner of Dracula. Prime Minister (PM) Rishi Sunak re-installed him in that vital Government post. So far, he’s achieved nothing but distress and mismanagement.
I shouldn’t joke. The seriousness of the situation in the National Health Service (NHS) isn’t a joking matter. Winter is testing the service to breaking point. Both the statistics and the experience of patients are not acceptable by any reasonable measure.
What’s intolerable is the general Ministerial response. Hard-line rhetoric about not budging on negotiations is callous. Dismissing every call for support by rattling-off lists of figures about Government spending is no help at all. Trying to redirect attention away from the things that need fixing. The shabby politics of avoidance is not what’s needed.
As a personal note, I find the situation indicative of broader failures too. My one term as a Surrey Country Councillor, between 1993 and 1997 is more history than anything else. The problem is that it’s not. I remember papers coming to full council meetings with a title that is pertinent and recognisable today. The subject being “bed blocking”.
That’s 30-years ago, our institutions struggled with making the transition between hospital care and social care. It was clear that there was going to be a growing problem. The demographics pointed to a rising aging population. There was no ambiguity about the facts.
Ministers have come and gone. Quite rapidly over the last year. Each with the responsibility for NHS service delivery, performance, and social care policy. Some like incoherent gad flies, some who span like windmills in a storm, some like patrician overseers but none with the managerial skills needed to address the challenge that stares them in the face.
Most local authorities are dealing with cuts to their budgets, financial constraints and the cost of living demands we all confront. In some cases, they are tittering on the brink of bankruptcy. Many local authorities have been forced to reduce their funding of social care at a time of rising demand.
It’s mad that, after all this time, we have still not come up with an integrated health service. Pitching the NHS and local authorities against each other for funding is absolutely ludicrous. It’s costing lives.
Today, we must recover from a crisis. Tomorrow, real change must be implemented to prevent a future crisis. It isn’t as if we don’t know what to do!