If I were Prime Minister: I would restore the NHS to its original vision

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If I were Prime Minister, I would only want to be Prime Minister for one term. Anything more, and you lose your mind as well as your morals. One term would keep you honest.

As Prime Minister, I would likely have been elected on a health ticket. So, first, I would repeal Andrew Lansley's disastrous Health and Social Care Act. His “reforms” were a fatal blow to the health service Aneurin Bevan first conceived in 1948. I would begin the task of reversing decades of damage caused by the creeping marketisation of healthcare.

But the future prosperity of Britain's people depends on more than restoring the NHS to its original vision. Our society faces multiple health threats that demand serious attention. I would address the immediate and urgent crisis in general practice. Chronic underfunding of general practice has turned one of the most coveted features of Britain's health service into one of its most desperate emergencies. General practice in Britain should be our jewel in the NHS crown. Instead, it has been tarnished by successive governments. We need to restore general practice to its preeminent position, providing 24 hour, 7-day a week high-quality care from a doctor you know and trust.

I would make children and adolescents my priority. The future of every country lies in its young people. Investing in first-class child health services, implementing programmes to support early child development (the most powerful means to achieve a fairer society), and taking adolescent health more seriously would create the foundation for a healthier, happier, and wealthier nation.

I would launch a new national movement for better mental health. Every one of us knows the importance of our mind as well as our body. Yet we treat the mind as a trivial accessory. But the mind is what makes us human. If we don't pay attention to the health of our minds, the health of our bodies becomes meaningless.

I would make the care of our elderly population a cross-government priority. Our older citizens have a huge but too often unrecognised contribution to make to our society. We need to unleash the potential of our older family and friends, drawing on their knowledge and skills, delivering their wisdom and experience for our next generations.

One aspect of our society that should be an election issue is UK science. Our research communities have made outstanding contributions to the health and wealth of the UK population. New drugs. New vaccines. New diagnostic and treatment technologies. But our research system is being slowly eroded. Thanks to inflation, frozen research budgets have meant lower research budgets. I would double the science budget within my one term of office. 

Finally, these programmes come at a cost. How would I pay for them? I would cancel our Trident nuclear programme. This decision alone would save billions. Would it make the UK less secure? I don't believe so. Can you really conceive a situation in today's world where we would use our nuclear capability? Those who defend our nuclear programme still see Britain as a great military power. We are a great nation, but not because we have a nuclear weapon.

We are great because of our creativity - in science, engineering, and the arts. We are great because of our values of fairness and diversity. We are great because of our moral commitment to human rights and global justice. A great nation is a healthy nation - physically, mentally, and also morally. That's surely a manifesto worth fighting for.