As we near the general election, the NHS is yet again a political hot potato. In the first days of the election campaign, the Conservatives and Labour have already traded swipes over the health service. NHS leaders have warned politicians against using the service for political ends, as each party makes campaign promises to win votes. There’s concern that overdramatising the difficulties while pledging increased funds that may never materialise won’t help NHS staff who are working flat out on the frontline.
Recent figures published by Labour show that 79,000 operations were cancelled last year, with 20 per cent scrapped because of staffing issues and equipment failures. Meanwhile, the British Medical Association said patients had “endured winter after winter” of overcrowded emergency departments, with the NHS reporting it was short of 100,000 staff in 2018.
With the news that the PM has installed a team to monitor the NHS during the election process, doctors have accused Mr Johnson of political spin. They claim that his recent visits to hospitals were nothing more than empty publicity stunts. The PM avoided answering questions from frustrated hospital staff, who apparently weren’t even aware he was in the building. There’s resentment among staff that the PM is only recognising the likelihood of an “unprecedented” NHS winter crisis because of fears it will harm the Conservative’s election chances.
Boris Johnson’s votes may also be affected by suspicions of a US trade deal with Trump that would see the NHS sold off and privatised. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the PM “wants to sign up to a US trade deal with Trump which would force the NHS to buy pricier drugs from US pharmaceutical companies”. Although the government has denied the claims, they have admitted to several meetings with US pharmaceutical company representatives to discuss the NHS.
Added to the NHS’s troubles is the probable ‘Brexit backlash,’ which could mean that many people won’t be able to get hold of vital medication. It’s feared that medical supplies will be held up at customs, with a lack of post-Brexit trade regulation leaving the UK health service desperate and vulnerable to exploitation from drugs companies.
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