The Covid crisis exposed weaknesses exacerbated by the Tories’ aggressive austerity of recent years. It also brought out the best in our health service as separate sections and staff rushed to co-operate for the common good. Many staff are exhausted and deserve a decent pay rise too.
Continuing demographic change also requires constant change – we are living longer with more chronic ailments in our later years.
The Government proposes a package of organisational changes in a new Bill, which received an in principle endorsement in the Commons this week. It reverses their memorably stupid and expensive reorganisation of a decade back and says it encourages integration and collaboration.
The charge sheet against the Bill is longer. There could be a loss of local accountability. The private sector could get its feet under the decision-making table.
It doesn’t propose to increase the NHS workforce and see them better supported. It doesn’t give the NHS the resources it needs to invest in modern equipment, repair crumbling buildings or ensure comprehensive, quality healthcare.
There is also a big question mark about the wisdom of big change when the health service hasn’t fully recovered from the Covid crisis.
There’s no sign of the long-promised reform of social care, without which many older people will have to use hospital beds rather than being cared for at home or in residential homes.
I am also concerned that North Tyneside’s success in health could be endangered by putting it into a new and bigger body that includes Cumbria, which has deeper problems.
I have been speaking with local medical professionals about this and will continue to do so as the potentially devilish detail of the proposed reforms becomes clearer.
The Bill returns to parliament in the Autumn for line by line scrutiny in committee, where it could be possible to agree a bipartisan approach for integrated health and social care. I’m sceptical that ministers will do this and will be watching them very carefully.
A modern NHS remains vital to us all.