10 reasons why Jeremy Hunt should give the NHS the birthday present it needs. His resignation

The way this NHS is being managed by Hunt is a stunning example of how not to do things. I have no doubt that if Hunt was a doctor, he would be facing disciplinary action

Kailash Chand
Wednesday 04 July 2018 22:19 BST
NHS at 70: A timeline of the National Health Service and its crisis

This week we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS. Sadly, the person at the helm presents the greatest risk to its long-term survival.

Theresa May must know Jeremy Hunt is a liability. Presumably that’s why she tried to sack him. A giant push from the public is required if we are to force Jeremy to step aside and give someone else a chance to fix the mess he has created.

Below, I lay out 10 reasons why Jeremy Hunt should step aside.

The first clear symptom of a failing NHS was the crisis in our A&E departments – and it continues to worsen. Under Jeremy Hunt, our A&Es are in the worst crisis for 13 years. Last year, more than one in 10 patients waited more than four hours at England’s A&Es. Jeremy has been in denial about this for five years, blaming everyone but himself. Jeremy, if you cannot recognise the problem, how can we trust you to fix it?

Hunt says all the right things about mental health but the data tells a different story. More than 5,000 mental health beds have been cut and the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 12 per cent. This shortage of resources is impacting patients detrimentally. Detentions under the Mental Health Act are up 24 per cent since 2012. Hunt promised parity for mental health, instead he delivered obscurity. As his alleged exchange with Alastair Campbell shows, Jeremy doesn’t seem to get that being mentally ill is not about being weak.

Furthermore, Hunt has sat on a social care time bomb for five years and has done next to nothing. More than a million elderly persons are not having their social care needs met, an increase of half since 2010. As a result, hospitals are clogged with patients who deserve better care at home. Since 2010, the NHS has lost 10 million bed spaces as a result of delayed discharge of patients, at a cost to the NHS of £4bn.

Hunt has himself admitted that striking junior doctors had a point. As a result, the number of workers quitting the NHS because it was affecting their work-life balance has tripled since 2011. Doctors are considering leaving the profession in greater numbers than ever before. A total of 37,842 doctors registered with the GMC have applied for certificates of good standing since 2010. The number of nurses quitting has soared under the Tories, with 140,000 leaving the register in the last five years. Hunt caused the NHS staffing crisis. The buck should stop with him.

He also persists with his claim that the NHS is not being privatised. Since 2010, NHS cash used to purchase non-NHS healthcare has climbed by 72 per cent. A total of £70bn has been spent on non-NHS healthcare since 2010 and £50bn of that cash has gone to for-profit health firms. Likewise, income generated, and therefore resources devoted, by the NHS to treating private patients has climbed 38 per cent to £583m since April 2011.

The health secretary tenure has seen a crisis in GP services. Since 2011, the proportion of unfilled GP posts has climbed more than fivefold. We’re in the midst of a GP recruitment crisis. By 2020, there will be a shortage of 10,000 GPs across the UK. The number of GP practices in England has fallen by 889 since 2010, a fall of 11 per cent, as a result of closures or mergers. There are 4,425 fewer staff working at GP practices today, compared to 2010.

Jeremy has also presided over the worst deterioration in NHS finances in its history. No government has invested less additional cash in real terms in our NHS than post-2010. NHS spending, as a share of UK GDP, has fallen since 2010. Two-thirds of NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts are now in deficit, and the total deficit for NHS Trusts has tripled in one year. Theresa May’s latest uncosted announcement is nowhere near enough to plug this black hole.

NHS to scrap 'unnecessary or risky' procedures

Rationing of NHS treatments have also increased markedly under Jeremy Hunt. IVF treatment has been rationed under the Tories, with 80 per cent of CCGs now refusing to fund the three cycles of IVF that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends. Hip and knee surgeries are now being denied to patients who smoke or are obese in over a third of CCGs. In addition, they have begun to restrict free hearing aids on the NHS for those suffering hearing loss. Jeremy, therefore, has presided over the end of an NHS free at the point of use.

What’s more, all of these failings are impacting patient safety. Life expectancy growth has halved under this government. A British Medical Journal article linked 120,000 deaths to government cuts to health and social care. Other data also points to an increase in the mortality rate. We warned Jeremy that his cuts would have consequences, and sadly the data is now showing that. That makes him culpable, and it is why he should resign.

Lastly, Jeremy told us he was a transparency advocate – but in reality he has presided over the scrapping of targets and burying of data. He should have been sacked for failing to heed warnings about the NHS cyber attack. His decisions have been challenged by the courts. Operational Pressures Escalation Level (OPEL) alerts, weekly A&E data, the 18-week targets, among other things, have been abandoned or buried.

The way this NHS is being managed by Hunt is a stunning example of how not to do things. I have no doubt that if Hunt was a doctor, he would be facing disciplinary action. The NHS is becoming a sinking ship under his stewardship.

So when you see our health secretary at the forefront of NHS celebrations this week, wearing his NHS badge, remind yourself that he refuses to give our NHS the birthday present it really needs – his resignation.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is the former deputy chair of the BMA council and honorary vice-president of the BMA. Dr Chand writes in a personal capacity

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