When I think about how many thousands of patients I have seen in the NHS over the years, it really hits home what a brilliant institution the NHS is. I have literally seen sight restored to the blind, the lame walk and heartbeats return – and no-one then crippled by the bill. A national structure for treating the sick, the original model was literally a framework to enable health professionals to get on with their jobs.
This isn’t exactly how most people would describe the framework now. Excessive targets, activity pressures and perverse incentives are undermining the delivery of care. Professionals can feel at times that they have little influence on priorities, the public still struggle to have their opinions heard, and volunteer fundraisers are now threatened with nationalisation. Expertise, pride and goodwill are all being undermined.
I set up the web-based think tank 2020health.org in order to give frontline experience a voice, so I am delighted that the Conservative Party is engaging with both the public and health professionals in a special online ‘Cameron Direct’ devoted to its healthcare policies.
If you go to the Draft Manifesto page you can vote on what questions should be asked to David Cameron about those policies – either by submitting your own question, or rating others. Then on Friday I’ll put the most popular questions to David in a live webcast. There have already been 25,000 votes in the last day or so, so I hope you will have your say too.
This sort of direct exchange has to exist if we are serious about both democracy and improving the NHS and healthcare in the UK. I’m really excited about the public meeting on Friday – not because David will necessarily have all the answers, but because it’s a step towards re-enfranchising all of us who want to see the NHS thrive in the years ahead.