The Tories caused the NHS crisis but can it be fixed?

The Tories caused the NHS crisis but can it be fixed?

Last Updated: April 27, 2024By Tags: , , , ,

The Tories caused the NHS crisis but can it be fixed? The evidence is clear – and highlighted in Prem Sikka’s article (link below).

When the Tories came to office in 2010, the NHS waiting list consisted of 2.5 million appointments and this was considered scandalous by the incoming ministers. In February this year the waiting list comprised 7.54 million appointments.

As a result, 300,000 people are dying every year while waiting for their appointments. Last year, 14,000 died in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments at hospitals.

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The dead are typically people from poorer backgrounds. Isn’t that always the way?

The NHS has fewer doctors and nurses than most peer countries. Lack of beds, staff and equipment means Britons die sooner from cancer and heart disease than people in many other rich countries. More than 39,000 people in England died prematurely of cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke in 2022.

If you’ve been wondering why it’s so hard to see a GP: the Tories promised in 2015 to increase their number by 5,000 – but by February 2024 there were the equivalent of 1,862 fewer fully-qualified full-time GPs than in September 2015.

Government funding for GPs in 2022-23 was 3.3 per cent lower than in 2018-19.

One in 20 patients have to wait at least four weeks to see a GP, and as this is necessary to get hospital oppointments, it seems likely that the number of people who need appointments is far higher than the official list suggests.

The UK has fewer dentists than any of the other G7 countries – just 49 per 100,000 people – 23,577 last year, down 695 on 2022 and more than 1,100 down on pre-pandemic numbers. The Tories don’t pay them enough, it seems. And no, that doesn’t mean the dentists are the greedy ones.

But there are wider political issues too.

Low wages, austerity, loss of public services, regressive taxation and unchecked profiteering means people are going without good food, housing, medicines, education and goods and services essential for a healthy lifestyle.

In 2022/23, more than 800,000 patients were admitted to hospital with malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, a threefold increase in 10 years.

Scurvy and rickets, once banished, have returned.

People living in damp, mouldy, poor and crowded accommodation are more likely to suffer from asthma, wheezing, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and meningitis.

One in six people aged 16+ have experienced symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety.

Due to poverty and lack of healthcare, 2.7m people are chronically ill.

More than 500,000 under-35s are out of work due to long-term illness.

Between 2012 and 2019, government imposed austerity caused 335,000 excess deaths in England and Scotland i.e. nearly 48,000 a year.

According [to] Marie Curie Charity, around 93,000 people are dying in poverty, which includes 68,000 senior citizens and 25,000 working age adults.

Another study estimated that between 2011 and 2020, 1.2m people in England died prematurely from a combination of poverty, austerity and Covid.

The necessary healthcare support has been systematically eroded.

In 2016, Exercise Cygnus concluded that the NHS would not be able to cope with a flu pandemic. The government responded by cutting the number of hospital beds. In 1997/98, England had 299,000 NHS hospital beds compared to 141,000 in 2019/20, down to 103,277 general and acute beds in January 2024. The decline may be partly explained by better medicine, technology and, care of the mentally ill in community, but the same factors affect other rich countries too.

The UK has 2.4 hospital beds per 1,000 population; compared to 12.6 in Japan, 7.8 in Germany, 6.3 in Poland, 5.7 in France, 4.4 in Switzerland, 3.4 in Norway, 3.1 in Italy, 3.0 in the Netherlands and Spain, and 2.9 in Ireland.

The number of beds is unevenly spread and the poorest areas have the fewest. For example, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has just 0.9 beds per 1,000 people, less than the average for Mexico. Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has just 1.7 hospital beds per 1,000 people, about the same level as in Colombia.

What’s the solution?

Baron Sikka wants a reversal of neoliberal (that’s both Tory and Labour, nowadays) policies that have cut wages and public services.

Like Gary Stevenson, he advocates equitable redistribution of income and wealth. He also wants us all in better housing which – as Gary points out regularly – can’t happen until we can afford to compete with the richest people to buy it.

It’s all perfectly affordable – in exactly the same way as bailing out the banks and supporting foreign wars has been affordable, according to Baron Sikka.


Millions can be raised for better and effective healthcare by eliminating tax anomalies and perks enjoyed by wealthy elites. For example, by taxing capital gains at the same marginal rates as wages, around £12bn a year in additional revenues can be raised. The same remedy for dividends can raise another £4bn-£5bn.

Levying national insurance on recipients of capital gains and dividends, currently exempt, can raise another £8bn-£10bn.

Indeed, a few reforms without increasing the basic rate of income tax and national insurance or the headline corporation tax rate can yield over £90bn a year in extra tax revenues.

It’s doable and it is affordable. Then only reason it won’t be in the Labour or Tory manifestos is simply that they would rather see you die in poverty and sickness than let you have even close to a decent standard of living.

Source: NHS crisis: This is what’s caused it and how we can solve it – Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate

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