Recently, Health Secretary Matt Hancock proposed a brand new NHS shake-up. 

The new deal was spoken about with much anticipation. Some have even speculated that it could potentially change the NHS’s future.

I beg to differ. This will hardly be life-changing.

The new deal was published on February 11th. With not much time left until we see its effects, it is important to look at what it actually means, how it could end the NHS as we know it and, ultimately, ruin our vaccination programme.

What’s the deal?

The deal proposed by Matt Hancock is yet to be fully published, so the full details won’t be known until then. However, we do know a few things about it.

Most importantly, the deal would give more power to Hancock while taking away powers from NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens and other arms-length bodies, such as the Quality Care Commission. This would also mean greater involvement and the ability to make bigger decisions, based on the debatable claim that: medical matters are matters for ministers’.

Of course, this would certainly enable Boris Johnson to get his fair share of the power too. He and Hancock would be making decisions right, left and centre on NHS England, with the aid of fellow ministers.

Re-centralise to maximise

Firstly, Boris Johnson said last July that he plans to make changes to the NHS in order to tackle the government’s diminishing role within the institution. Whilst this may sound strange given the typical Conservative ideology of de-nationalisation, it is thought that Johnson is trying to re-centralise power in order to allow for better decision-making and efficiency within our health service — starting with reducing waiting times, for one.

Secondly, it is thought that a restructuring can help fix past mistakes. Amongst these are increased waiting times, staff shortages, lack of supply and low pay. The suggestion is that greater government involvement will translate into better capacity to act in the public’s interest.

Finally, it is thought that the new deal could help the Conservatives pass their manifesto aims. These include the building of 40 new hospitals and up to 50,000 new nurses. But could this be a false claim? Some of the supposed ‘new’ hospitals that were expected to be built are actually existing hospitals that will simply be refurbished. As for the nurses, almost 20,000 of the new recruits turned out to have been either former or existing NHS staff that were encouraged to return or stay on.

How sound is this deal?

To many people, the new deal may not sound that unusual, or bad. Perhaps the Conservatives are learning from past mistakes of austerity by trying to inject money where it is most needed?

However, critics of the deal argue that it’s bad timing. Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, says that Johnson would need to justify the shake-up when the UK is going through one of the biggest health crises in its 70-year history. 

The NHS is under immense pressure at the moment, with limited staff, resources and space. To place higher demands now could potentially lead to more fractures — and this is without factoring in the pandemic.

But why is this bad for the vaccination programme?

Throughout the pandemic, the government has let us down with their response. Our track and trace system was so bad that it missed thousands of people who needed to self-isolate. Now the new hotel quarantine system is off to a bad start. Its website experienced a shutdown and there have been issues at the airports. I could go on but we have something more important to worry about: the vaccination programme. 

This has been an absolute success so far. The over 65s are now being vaccinated and there are over 17 million vaccinated at the time of writing. However, this success may halt if the Health Secretary gets his hands on the programme. Everything the government has thus far directly handled has put our country to shame. To hand over our fantastic vaccination programme now would be an absolute disaster.

This vaccine is our only real way out of this pandemic. The NHS has shown us that, when left to its own devices, it can do amazing things. Thousands of patients have been treated, new treatments introduced and medical breakthroughs achieved. And now a successful vaccination programme, placing Britain third on the list of vaccinated countries per 100 people.

But this could easily be taken away if someone who destroys everything they touch is allowed to manage one of the most delicate and instrumental programmes of the 21st century.

NO! to more power

This new deal is a bad idea.

There are issues with the NHS, yes. But should those issues be handled by a man with no previous healthcare experience? I don’t think so. The NHS should always be left to the people who know it best; those who deal with medicine and who have the people at heart. 

Our National Health Service is all about care, attention and love. That’s how it should stay. Any government shake-up will only erode that fine quality. The Conservative government has never helped before — so why start now?

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