Is the NHS in meltdown?21st December 2010
Writing in The Telegraph, columnist Mary Riddell warns David Cameron that he will pay a heavy price if he presides over a meltdown in the health service.
The 80,000 NHS workers whose jobs are to be abolished or revised must have felt like turkeys wishing for Christmas as they helped oversee unprecedented efficiency savings of £20 billion while preparing for the biggest health reforms in the world.
The plan is to get rid of primary care trusts, handing their budgets to family doctors by 2013, but critics fear this may lead to a meltdown of the NHS.
The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs are among those who have registered concerns.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley believes the changes are a modest evolution, while NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson begged to differ.
And a promise to ring-fence health funding has started to look hollow.
Inflation rises have now turned a 0.1% real terms increase in funding into a cut with most critics seeing problems emerging by as early as April.
With so many dependent on the NHS, woe betide any prime minister who presides over its collapse.
The luxury Tony Blair had of a multi-billion pound investment in the NHS after criticisms, is not available to Mr Cameron.
Worse still, the consensus that the Government is acting recklessly, is shared by the very GPs on whom the reforms depend. They do not want to be vulnerable to criticism of putting profit before patient care.
Unless the government changes its plans, critics say financial pressures, longer waiting times and falling patient satisfaction will result.
The Prime Minister should reconsider his reforms. There is no greater rock on which a government might founder than Britain’s cherished and beleaguered NHS.
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