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Whichever way the Government spins it, the message is clear: the National Health Service is in deep trouble.

Benjamin Disraeli has been courted by the Conservative and the Labour Party alike in recent times to evince their centralist credentials and strong desire that nobody gets ‘left behind’. So leave it to the Prime Minister who served over 130 years ago to sum up another worrying trend in modern British politics. Last week, figures were released saying that hospital waiting times were getting longer, and that 1 in 5 NHS Hospitals were on the verge of failing. These statistics, the Secretary of Health said, were wrong.

1.3 million people are back in work, according to David Cameron, and the economy is growing and is set to outpace Europe in its recovery. How distant two winters ago, with its prospect of a double dip and an unending recession, seems now. But we would do well to remember Disraeli’s old chestnut: ‘there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ (ok, so evidence of Disraeli’s actual ownership of the phrase is sketchy at best, but we’ll let established history preside.) It is practiced by every government under the sun, but the Coalition, an arranged marriage in which the Lib Dems are increasingly less vocal about issues on which progress has been made, are giving previous administrations a run for their money on quite how readily you can twist —and here even deny— the facts.

By rubbishing the figures released that said waiting times are now longer than they were when the Coalition took power, and that many hospitals cannot cope, Jeremy Hunt has further undermined his own department. He has also said that a declaration by the National Audit Office that one in four hospitals is recording false waiting list times, is false. Anymore of this, and he might be accused of fiddling whilst Rome burns.

This is dangerous territory for any Government. We the public are fully aware that figures are bent and manipulated by our leaders, on a daily basis, but such a blatant disregard by the Health Secretary not only for the National Audit Office, but also for the unsustainable strain which the NHS is evidently under, shows a complete nonchalance towards people’s health and lives. Oh, for those halcyon days of Andrew Lansley.

NHS administrators have been accused of ‘pausing’ the clock on testing official waiting times so as to meet Government targets. This can mean only one thing: David Cameron’s pledge to protect the NHS has been broken. The system is under such a strain that targets have overtaken patient care in order of importance — something which the Conservative Party blamed Labour for during the last General Election campaign, and have now failed to rectify. Beds are now in corridors, and patients are not receiving adequate care.

No Government should be allowed to try to twist this. The NHS, as evidenced by these recent figures, is in crisis. What the Government should do is make sure it doesn’t follow suit by fudging the figures. The British public would never forgive the people who destroyed one of the few institutions which they still treasure today, and they certainly won’t thank them for unnecessary deaths. Statistics aside, the facts are clear: the NHS needs more money if it is to survive, and it needs a Health Secretary who is willing to admit the truth, if it is to address its problems.

 

Stuart McMillan

 

Image Credit: Brezelsuppe