Armed only with the shiny sword of truth, Beyond the Bedpan slashes through the political foliage to reveal the facts behind the main parties’ health policies.
As the general election campaign gathers pace, amidst the mud-slinging and media hysteria, one thing is guaranteed - every political party will bend over backwards to prove that they are the true “party of the NHS”.
Nurses will be prime political currency, with politicians of all persuasions promising to recruit more of you, treat you better and empower you to lead services. This will last right up until the final votes are counted, at which time you go back to being largely ignored, and offered sub-inflation pay rises.
Cynical? Us? Let’s see what the the health policy blurb on the main parties’ websites has to say.
Not that you can tell from the health policy page of its website: “The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement. We created it, we saved it, we value it and we will always support it. The NHS remains Britain’s most cherished public service and the fairest system of healthcare in the world.”
Broadly speaking, the claims seem fair. It was a Labour government that created the NHS in 1948. And since its 1997 victory, Labour has poured an unprecendented amount of money into the NHS. On their website, the party lists the recruitment of 89,000 nurses since Tony Blair’s first election victory at the top of its list of health-related achievements.
The Conservatives, predictably, are quick to trot out the “party of the NHS” maxim, despite the lack of historic credibility. While they acknowledge Labour’s financial commitment to the health service, they argue that the money has been wasted on “a decade of top-down, bureaucratic mismanagement” - which they promise to fix.
Labour stand accused of “undermining the professionalism of NHS staff and skewing NHS priorities away from patient care, creating a culture where ticking boxes is more important than giving patients the treatment they need”.
NHS targets have been widely and fairly criticised, but Beyond the Bedpan is a little insulted at the presumption that a mere political party could make nurses abandon the fundamental principles of patient care.
The answer is “making nurses accountable to patients,” as well as “making sure there is no hiding place for failure”. We assume they don’t mean public stonings for incompetent nurses, but specifics are thin on the ground.
A Tory government would also “drive up standards by allowing people to choose the best providers and by encouraging hospitals to compete for patients”.
Also known as “competition” and “patient choice”. Sound familiar?
The Lib Dems “believe access to personal care should be based on need not the ability to pay”. Which is good because, in theory at least, it already is.
They also come down heavy on central targets, promising to scrap them altogether and “guarantee that you get your treatment on time”.
An epic promise, and one that cynics might feel could only be made by a party with little hope of an outright election victory.
Finally, the party would put “doctors and nurses back in charge of their hospitals and wards”.
So there you have it. In the red corner, a ruling party that stands accused of wasting billions on a wasteful and target-obsessed NHS. In the yellow and blue corners, a series of grand promises that seem literally too good to be true.
Who gets your vote? Let us know in the comments box below this article.