Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Some years back I produced and presented a not to flattering programme on Nye Bevan. It certainly didn’t win any popularity contests. Indeed one of the current cabinet members accused me of being a traitor to my country. Quite what the treachery was, never was made clear.
It does, however, illustrate the iconic status given to Nye Bevan for establishing the National Health Service. The message, for sure was, that you don’t mess with Bevan’s reputation or with Bevan’s NHS achievement.
Without doubt establishing the service was regarded as one of the crowning achievements of the post-war Attlee Government
Elections are won or lost on what the public-perceive the attitude of political parties are to the NHS.
It’s no accident that Mr Cameron kept hammering the message that “the NHS is save in out hands.” For he knew that his chances of becoming PM would be greatly diminished if the voters thought he would undermine their health service.
But like all services the NHS can’t be left, as if in aspic, they have to change to reflect the times. And that’s the rub for our politicians, they also recognize change is necessary, but equally are aware that the public only want the NHS to change in the abstract.
When it comes to downgrading or closing local health facilities the public are up in arms, they protest they petition and, of course, opposition politicians get on the band wagon. Rationality goes out of the window in favour of localism.
So pity the Health secretary that tries to introduce change into the health service as Andrew Lansley has discovered in England and Lesley Griffiths is about to find out in Wales.
The Welsh Health Secretary, yesterday, launched her Together for Health her plans which she says ”must transform services if we are to have a state of the art, clinically, appropriate response to rising and changing demand. If we do not, we will never attract world class staff and tackle deep seated patterns of inequality. We must strengthen community based care, stop unplanned hospitalisation and create a network of centres of excellence.”
Now these are fine words and they’re not the first time we’ve heard the Welsh Government aspire to change. But will it be different this time? Will politicians of all parties embrace such an agenda or will they fall into old ways of following the sound of local protest?
The immediate gut reaction of the various opposition parties is to give Ms Griffith’s proposals the thumbs down. There are political advantages in stopping change, but will the long-term health needs of Wales be served by their dog in the manger approach?
If Wales want a health service that is fit for purpose for the twenty-first century then radical change is needed and soon. Our politicians would serve the electors better by ditching populism and embracing rationalism. Is this to much to ask? The answer unfortunately is, yes.