At some point the Tories will run out of people to blame for the state of the NHS…

I went through just about every emotion there is watching BBC2’s new series Hospital which follows events and pressures at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Partly because some of what was shown is just a bit too close to my recent experience, partly because of the life and death decisions made every day with too few resources, I was in tears several times.  One man awaiting cancer surgery is told at the last minute that they don’t know if they will be able to operate because there isn’t an Intensive Care bed available for him.

This comes as every news bulletin carries ever more harrowing accounts of the pressures in hospitals at the moment. What is the response of the Minister responsible? To blame the public. He talked  saying that 30% of A & E patients don’t need to be there as if it is their fault that they have no other option. If people could get GP appointments or had community pharmacies to go to, they would never need to go to A & E. Whose fault is it that they have no alternative? Step forward Mr Hunt.

The Tories are increasingly following the example of the SNP and blaming anyone else for their own failings. It’s not the first time that Hunt has tried to pin the blame on somebody else. Remember when he said the junior doctors’ strike was the fault of the Labour party? Couldn’t be anything to do with the way he handled it.

Hunt’s latest bid to win friends amongst the stressed and under-resourced people who make up our health service is to threaten already stretched GP surgeries with funding cuts if they don’t open for longer hours. This would all be fine if there were actually enough doctors. Figures last year showed a 2% drop in the number of GPs in 2015. At 11.7%, GP vacancy rates are at record high levels.

Norman Lamb took Hunt to task over this plan, calling on him to train new doctors, not to make scapegoats out of the existing ones:

The Government’s plan is wholly unrealistic. We must face the reality that there is a chronic lack of doctors to cover the current crisis in the NHS.

Punishing GP surgeries already struggling is no way to fix the system. The Government must give the NHS the resources it needs to train and recruit new doctors not use the existing ones as scapegoats for their own mismanagement.

Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to make the case that we may need to raise taxes to pay for NHS and social care in the long-term, and ensure patients get the treatment and care they deserve.

We must be prepared to work together through an NHS and Care Convention. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to meet to discuss this proposal. It is vital that the Government acts rather than sleepwalking towards the edge of the precipice.





* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • I agree with almost every point (although why bring the SNP into the argument)…

    May’s latest tirade against GPs shows a government, completely out of touch with reality, flailing around for yet another scapegoat…
    Hunt has been incompetent, and more, in every position he has held…(A great pity that we blocked the ministerial enquiry that should have ended his political career)..I listened to Hunt’s ‘interviews’ on the BBC and ITV. His, “There are only problems at one or two hospitals” and how “The UK spends more than the average for rich countries on the health services” are lies that should have been challenged far more strongly than they were..

  • nigel hunter 15th Jan '17 - 12:07pm

    GPs should be opened longer and the money should not be cut.
    More GPs should be trained.
    Pharmacies should have their facilities expanded and the cuts proposed stopped.
    Greg Mulholland with Leeds NHS Trust has arranged for Otley Community Hospital to open a redundant ward (26 beds to be introduced) to take pressure off Leeds NHS Trust AND provide care support for after discharge. Contact him for further details.
    This also implies that Community Hospitals should not be closed but expanded for health and future job prospects. The resources are available for a successful health system if commitment is put in place.

    I also notice that Hammond and May are to issue Brexit comments in the next few days. When you are on the loosing end of an arguement ‘take back control’ by changing the subject’.

  • @expats, some of us are Scottish and/or care about people in Scotland, so why should the SNP get a free ride? Just this week, when Sturgeon was asked about the failures within the NHS in Scotland, her response was to say that things were worse in England. Just this week, women in advanced stages of labour were told to go to other hospitals, because Scotland’s supposed flag-ship hospital wasn’t able to cope.

    May, Hunt and the Tory Government are playing a dangerous propaganda game when it comes to the NHS, and should be challenged, but they are not the only ones.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jan '17 - 12:30pm

    @expats “A great pity that we blocked the ministerial enquiry that should have ended his political career”
    Indeed. Being reminded of this prompted me to search out some of my posts on this site at that time (e.g. and Embarrassingly, I got quite vexed about the party over that issue but never did manage to give up coming back to this site, though after then I stopped referring to Lib Dems in the first person. It was no more we/us and instead was you/them.
    Sadly, having backed Hunt and Lansley before him, and with Clegg having signed off on the NHS reforms, Lib Dems must share some of the blame for the state of the NHS.

  • I see that Mrs May is having a ‘pop’ at a lot of GPs who have taken all that public money to get trained for years and then are now happy, due to good salary levels and wish to reduce personal stress, to work a three day week including half days, long periods of no surgery availability, long annual holidays no home visits etc. All these matters are really the responsibility of Tony Blair (for paying GPs too much when he reworked the contract) and the subsequent Coalition and Tory government who have virtually no hold over GPs whatsoever given that their contracts are now held by the enfeebled and useless ‘NHS England’ (in England only, of course!) and the GPs now notionally determine how all NHS contracts in their areas are sorted out, including community services and other aspects of primary care including much GP services (NHS England, realising their own uselessness have delegated a lot of their GP supervision work to Clinical Commissioning Groups ie GPs!) It is interesting to see Sarah Woolaston debunking Mrs May’s commitment to the NHS. Meanwhile, while all this politics goes on, patients (and their relatives and friends, don’t forget) suffer.

  • Fiona, No one pretends there are no problems with NHS Scotland…However, Scotland has more GPs/Nurses per head than any other region, pay no prescription charges, are abolishing hospital parking charges, spend more per capita than England/Wales. The SNP government opposes PPI, “creeping privatisation” and the use of public money to help the private sector “compete” with the NHS…
    I’d swap!

  • “Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to make the case that we may need to raise taxes to pay for NHS and social care in the long-term”

    This would be all well and good had the Liberal Democrats not spent the last eight or nine years attacking the last Labour government for spending too much. Does this mean we are now back to where we were in 2005 and 2001, when the Lib Dems were proposing to out-spend Labour?

  • Peter Watson, Thank you…I’ve just re-read your comments in the links…Compared to the mealy mouthed ‘excusers’ (We think Hunt should be investigated BUT?????) yours was the voice of sanity(although, thankfully, you were not alone)…
    If ever an example of Edmund Burke’s, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” was needed; that was it!

  • @Expats, Sturgeon DID this week ignore criticism of the problems by pointing the finger at problems in areas of England.

    I could go respond to your views of the NHS in Scotland, but suffice to say that your perception based on fudges and political propaganda is very different to the reality. However, I have no desire to turn this into the NHS equivalent of the Yorkshiremen sketch and the word-count is nothing like sufficient to explain problems in the Scottish NHS and why it sounds as if you have been a victim of the SNP spin machine. We need to hold politicians (from whichever party) to account, and not let them shift the blame.

  • As a Yorkshireman who has lived in Scotland for over twelve years – and undergone major surgery and receives ongoing support in Edinburgh – I can say that the NHS is in a much better state north of the border. If I lived in Gretna I’d go to Edinburgh rather than Carlisle any time.

    Of course give Nicola a hard time and keep the SNP up to scratch – but there are many more open goals down south.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jan '17 - 2:14pm

    Is it any wonder that Americans, the only country with a worse system, in the opposite direction to ours, are scared of what they see as, socialised medicine.All we here , no matter who is in charge , politicised, and now with hapless ministers, personalised health care meaning exactly the reverse of in other countries.

    The French have more market involvement than even the demonised Health and Social Care Act. They have no regular crisis . Why? Funding in a social market is by insurance social insurance, not the same as a privatised orientation in favour of top down funding rationed, and to contracters with monoploly contracts.I do not see the need for social insurance as we have the ethos and systems in place at funding level to do it in the traditional way. But that means with no social market we have to yet recognise , supply and demand are natural , as with transactions, and we never let one match the other in our rationed system .

    A social market is not what we have. The marketisation of health care in this country, like its socialised element too,is a monopoly. Not a good system. Power in the hands of the management , the corporation , the government , the ministers.

    Unless we have the drive of the Cubans , in a state run system, we get this permanently.

    I have little to say in favour of Cuba, but I know a lot about health care, and their drive has not existed in this country on health care since Bevan.

    Combine that with a social market in which there are no monopoly contracts, and we might get somewhere.

    But it needs massive funding and an end to rationing. It means flexibility and an end to posturing.

    No party including ours , which is the best of them, can face up to the modern world. All we ever do when we talk about the private sector , is either demonise good medical professionals, or go with corporate giants who we roll over for.

    Nuffield , Bupa, these are not for profit organisations. My mother has in old age taken a union mutual health insurance she cannot afford, because of the lack of dignity in the NHS.

    Get real and wake up. Hunt is clueless, the alternatives are often no better.

  • Peter Watson,
    Thank you for pointing out the major failing of the Lib Dems in coalition, their unwillingness to upset the Tories even if it was the right thing too do. I suspect they fell for the falacy that we are all the same team, unfortunately for the proponents of this, the Tories never believed this and ensured the Lib Dem MP’s perished. I believe Tim Farron didn’t believe this and Kennedy certainly never did, but too many believed being in government and acting as a break would be rewarded.
    As to giving the SNP a break, the role of politicians is to put forward their views and oppose bad ideas and government where ever they see it; a pity many Lib Dems forgot this while in power.

  • @David, I’m definitely not against targeting open goals down south, simply supporting Caron’s relevant assertion that the SNP have a long-standing habit of dealing with criticism by pointing the finger elsewhere. But as a Scot who lived in London for many years, I found it easier to get a GP appointment in London than I do now I’m back north of the border. My friend’s husband had to travel to an English hospital for life-saving treatment, because no Scottish hospital had the skills or expertise. What does that prove? Not much really. Not much really. Knowing that my friend got life-saving treatment for a rare disease in a world-leading hospital somewhere in England does nothing to alleviate the problems faced by those stuck on a trolley in an A&E department elsewhere in the country.

    I do believe that overall, the problems faced by the NHS in England are worse than they are, overall, in Scotland, but we have a great many open goals here in Scotland, and having the SNP deflect by saying it’s worse in England doesn’t help anyone and should not be tolerated.

  • John Barrett 15th Jan '17 - 8:11pm

    The public is clearly not to blame for all of the problems in the NHS, but some of the demand for NHS services is clearly down to a public which demands the “right” to behave without any regard to the health related consequences of their life choices and then to demand that the NHS be funded to cope with that demand.

    Anyone who has attended an A & E unit, especially at the weekend, will have witnessed the amount of drunks attacking each other and the nurses or doctors attending them. Not to mention those who are victims of domestic abuse, car crashes and other alcohol related problems.

    The cost of time and money spent in the NHS on a range of completely avoidable problems, relating to alcohol, diet, lack of exercise, smoking and much more is some thing few politicians of any party are willing to discuss, as most elected politicians find it much easier to demand more spending on the NHS, rather than to try to tackle the massive problem of increased demand on an overstretched service by many people who should not be using it in the first place.

    I accept that there will always be many examples of people who do everything they should, yet still fall victim to those problems associated with smoking or consuming too much alcohol, but the statistics show that if those who could, would take the necessary action to enjoy a healthier lifestyle, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol consumption, take some regular exercise and eat a healthier diet, there would be a massive reduction in demand for a range of NHS treatments.

    The current NHS problems might not be the fault of the public, but many are not helping and many more are making it worse.

  • May is a Tory and she behaves like one. When she can’t continue to deny a crisis caring and sharing goes out of the window in favour of bullying . No surprise whatsoever.
    My doctor retired early recently. She did so because the pressure of the job, shortening consultation periods, caused her to worry about making erroneous diagnoses. She can’t be unique can she?

  • Lets go with the conspiracy theory that the Tories quite like the NHS in crisis, next stop a David Laws style insurance system.

  • Stephen Hayes 16th Jan '17 - 1:34pm

    If patients (who are voters and taxpayers) won’t adequately fund health care, how do we ‘deserve’ better care?

  • John Barrett 15th Jan ’17 – 8:11pm…
    I agree up to a point….Last summer my wife collapsed and was rushed, by ambulance (‘bells and whistles’) to Taunton hospital on a Saturday afternoon…
    Whilst she was being connected up to machines I was asked to wait in A&E…The place was full but no-one seemed to be either an accident or emergency case…
    The woman next to me had two heavy shopping bags and, on her name being called, picked them up and walked briskly off following the nurse…I’m no doctor but any urgent problem was not apparent…

    However, these people are not the main problem; they can be dealt with and away they go…It is the lack of beds for those who ARE sick that is the problem. A report last year said “Hospital beds in the UK have been steadily eroded, to reduce costs, without the corresponding increase in social care that is needed to support this move.The UK has less than 300 beds per 100,000 population, in the Irish Republic it’s about 500, in Belgium it’s over 650, in France it’s over 700, in Germany it’s over 800, in Austria it’s over 700, etc….This, combined with the lack of social care, is where the problem really lies…

  • Tony Dawson 16th Jan '17 - 1:55pm

    @frankie :

    “Thank you for pointing out the major failing of the Lib Dems in coalition, their unwillingness to upset the Tories even if it was the right thing too do.”

    Frankie, I remained publicly-critical of this approach throughout the Coalition and was particularly-concerned as to how Paul Burstow ignored the Lib Dem feedback about his ‘NHS deforms’ which was spelled out to him by those with experience in no uncertain terms at the Liverpool Party Conference in 2010. So too, btw, did certain Lib Dem MPs and Lords express these sort of reservations. Though it does not forgive them, at least the Lib Dems leadership only allowed the Tories to do bad things whereas the Labour Party tried to ‘out-Tory’ the Tories here, promising less cash in their 2015 election manifesto for the NHS than the others did. Labour were also responsible, initially for the ridiculous Trust set-up and the PFIs whic the other Tories jumped on with glee. Alan Milburn, in particular, was a total and utter disgrace.

  • More bizarre shoe-horning of the SNP into an unrelated article. And does anyone seriously believe a Lib Dem MSP/FM wouldn’t use the exact same deflection as Sturgeon? Aren’t comparisons in fact one of the best ways of putting a question in context even when you aren’t dodging it?

    Of course, such deflections are to be criticised and challenged (as per comments in thread). But petty asides like the one in the article make we wonder if there few substantive criticisms to be made of the SNP. I’m down south now, but I’m often left thinking the SNP must be doing a pretty good job if that’s all we’ve got.

    None of which means there are no criticisms to make. Just please, less complaining about how they are in power and yet refuse to collapse into weeping sacks of apology when challenged. That kind of refusal is actually a very popular attitude with voters. No one likes a leader embarrassed of themselves.

  • @ John Barrett

    John, I was pleased to hear your comment about the effects of alcohol and the cost it puts upon society and the NHS (let alone on crime and domestic violence).

    The benefits from minimum pricing (see the Sheffield University Report) seem to have got lost in a labyrinth of nothing. I’m disappointed that the Party doesn’t make more of it. I know for fact that generous donations from certain distillers may have got in the way.

    I hope Norman Lamb and Alex Cole-Hamilton can pick this up and run.

  • John Barrett 18th Jan '17 - 9:23am

    David Raw – I agree, something must be done to reduce the problems resuting from our present level of alcohol consumption. I was not aware of the donations from distillers. Sadly like other party we have had a few “dodgy donors” in the past. hopefully those days are over.

    Geoffrey Payne – Even if consumption in some groups is reducing the problems may will continue to increase as the effects of tobacco and alcohol can take many years to turn into medical problems.

    The scale of the problem for the NHS in both financial costs and human resources dealing with problems which have resulted from the choice many have made to smoke must run into the many billions of pounds. Exact figures for the cost might be difficult to calculate, but the facts relating to cancer and smoking are much clearer.

    It is estimated that more than one in three people in the UK will develop cancer at some stage in their lives and that more than one in four will die from the disease. Smoking is the single biggest avoidable risk factor for cancer. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for nearly one fifth of all new cancer cases – about 60,000 a
    year – and causes more than one quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK.

    A review, published by The Lancet Oncology, concludes that there is sufficient evidence to confirm that smoking is a cause of 15 types of cancer: including: cancer of the bladder, a type of bone marrow cancer, cervix, bowel, kidney, larynx, liver, lung, mouth, nose, ovaries, throat and stomach cancer.

    In the UK about 85% of lung cancer cases in men are attributable to smoking and about 80% of cases in women. Because of its poor prognosis, lung cancer is still the most common cause of cancer death in both men and women, responsible for more than 1 in 5 of all cancer deaths in the UK.

    Add to that the costs dealing with problems related to lack of exercise and health problems related to over-eating and we have ended up with an NHS that no amount of extra funding alone will solve its problems.

    We all need to do what we can to reduce the demand for its services and to enjoy a healthier life at the same time.

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