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‘Stop the health service being a political football’

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Towards the end of last year, while most of us were out shopping, the prime minister gave a speech and said reforms to the public sector will become ‘wider and deeper’ in the coming years.

He said in future we would be talking not about public services but of personal services. He looked earnest. Then he did that smile to tell us he’s human. Most of us ignored him. We were too busy putting tinsel on our heads and drinking to listen to the ramblings of a man desperate to be liked.

Why is it that all politicians fail to realise that sometimes the best way to be liked is to simply shut up? When faced with the prospect of being a bit unpopular, rather than just going home, they start doing anything from karaoke to Celebrity Love Island just to receive a little attention. Sadly, most of them can’t sing nor – due to their lack of screen time in Hollyoaks – get on to Love Island. So, instead, they throw more policies at us.

So chances are we can expect a raft of new policy before next November. And we’ll have one or two new high-profile tsars.

Richard Branson is sure to be a tsar of something soon. Given his predilection for balloons and whispering, he may become tsar of the hospital environment. Are we using too much energy? Do we need to drive to work? Can we get there by balloon? And, when we are there, might we not all whisper a bit more? It’ll be good. And we could encourage Trinny and Susannah to be tsars of patient choice.

Let’s make patients feel in control of everything from the colour of the commodes to what sort of surgery they should have.

By April we’ll need a new health secretary. Yes, Alan Johnson is enjoying the gig but does he say ‘broad church’ the way say Noel Edmonds might? Or Christopher Biggins? And with a new health secretary we’ll need more policies. There’ll be the Branson balloon initiative obviously but by this time might punters be looking for a bit more substance? A new way of accessing health services? More investment in out-of-hours services and staff retention perhaps? Or Trinny and Susannah could launch a new range of bedspreads.

By autumn, with Biggins moving to the treasury, a new health secretary – Bryan Ferry? – will call a press conference to announce a major new direction for the NHS. This will consist of a financial review and the reformation of Roxy Music.

The year will end as it began – with the health service at the mercy of economics and political whim. And a continued reliance on staff to hold it together. Of course Gordon could do something about that at a stroke – introduce an independent management body to oversee the NHS and stop it being a political football.

Or we could ask Kylie to be health secretary? Might be a vote-winner?

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