The NHS is likely, if Labour have anything to do with it, to be the battleground of next year’s general election.
Labour’s candidate in their must-win by-election in the North West constituency of Middleton and Heywood, has spoken about little else, as they attempt to convince the public that UKIP are seeking wholesale privatisation of the health service.
In fact, Ms Bours will use her speech not just to highlight what she says are deliberate Labour lies, but that it is Labour, under Blair’s administration that has seen large amounts of the NHS under the control and ownership of private, profit motivated businesses.
The positioning of UKIP as Labours replacement for the working class continues, and the NHS is potentially Ukip’s most fertile ground for this election.
Any doubt Ms Bours is after the Labour vote will evaporate before she’s taken her second breath, as from the outset she will remind the audience that the NHS was seen as ‘a victory for the working class’ at its creation in 1948.
Perhaps the most important message she will deliver is her explicit rebuttal of Labour’s claims that Ukip will charge patients to see their GP, in fact, she goes further, ‘UKIP will ensure the NHS remains free at the point of delivery and need. A two tier national health system, where those with money can opt to pay for enhanced services will never be acceptable,’ she will say.
Tapping into the public’s recent experiences of longer waiting times for both emergency and non-emergency treatment, she will say that front line workers are demoralized with many clinical staff having to cope with too many demands and not enough resources.
The blame for this, she claims, is that whilst the NHS employs a whopping 1.7million people, clinical staff are outnumbered by so-called ‘bureaucrats’, using up huge amounts of money that would be better spent on frontline services.
Her lack of confidence in NHS managers goes so far as to suggest a licensing system for them, akin to the registration that many clinical staff have to adhere to. Those that were found to be incompetent, or responsible for scandals such as seen in the last couple of years would be ‘struck-off’ and therefore not able to take up posts in other NHS establishments.
As the EU looks to finalise a trade and Investment agreement with the USA, Ms Bours will call on David Cameron to support the trade union’s stance that the NHS should be exempted. There is real concern in the health service that the agreement will make it nigh-on impossible for any government to take back control of a service currently provided by the private sector, should they fail to perform adequately.
Private companies have already sued other governments via so-called ‘investor protection’ laws that form part of international trade deals, and there is currently no guarantee that the NHS will be immune to such actions under the current proposals.
The growing salience of ‘health tourism’ is at the forefront of the public’s mind, since it has been revealed it costs the NHS some £2bn a year. The introduction of mandatory health insurance for visitors and migrant workers will be a visa requirement. This will be checked at the point of visa application, so the NHS is not burdened with further bureaucracy. £200 million of this saving will be used to abolish hospital car parking charges across England.
There are some governance initiatives, where ‘county health boards’ will replace the current bodies ‘Monitor’ and the ‘Care Quality Commission’, run by clinicians instead of politicians and giving further protection to whistleblowers.
But it is the promise of keeping the NHS free and the re-direction of more cash to frontline services that will worry their biggest rival for the title of ‘the party for the NHS’, Labour.
She will remind voters that it was Labour who supported the Private Finance Initiatives which by the time they have run their course will have cost the NHS £300bn.
Her argument that this money could have been used to transform the NHS rather than the fortunes of shareholders and hedge fund managers is designed to make Labour squirm; Ukip stand ready in the wings, waiting to replace them as the party who will fight for NHS.