This is the first in a series of blogs on the state of the UK National Health Service in the run up to the June 2017 General Election

Medsin’s OurNHS working group believes that the NHS will be instrumental in achieving a future of fair and equitable health for all, and that it is our responsibility to fight against the current regime of austerity which is harming patient’s health and health-care provider’s livelihoods.

The announcement of a snap general election provides Medsin with an opportunity to remind political parties and voters alike that supporting the NHS must be prioritised in all decision making, and we strongly believe that patients must be put back into the heart of policy making. “Brexiteers” made bold and false claims centred around NHS funding in their campaign: now is the time to deliver on the promise of a stronger NHS and follow through on the mandate of the people. Talking is not enough – urgent action is needed if we are to preserve an NHS that remains free at the point of access.

First and foremost our political leaders must commit to meeting the funding needs of the NHS. The winter A&E crisis of 2017, largely due to inadequate resources to cope with increasing demand, led to an unprecedented declaration by the British Red Cross that the system was facing a “humanitarian crisis.” Cuts to NHS funding will have the biggest impacts on the most vulnerable in society. This is especially significant as since 2012 the new formula for NHS funding gives less weight to deprived areas of the country compared to affluent areas than the previous pattern of funding.

We are also deeply concerned about the calculated efforts to hinder marginalised groups from accessing free healthcare and we believe that this, and the accompanying rhetoric that marginalised groups are to blame for the NHS financial crisis, must be halted. An example of this is a new Conservative government directive which means that hospitals are required by law to check whether a patient is eligible for free NHS care before treating them. This categorically goes against the founding principles of the NHS and policies such as these will undoubtedly further widen health inequalities in our society. We demand that political parties safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society high quality health-care.   

Despite lip service from politicians on mental health around stigma reduction, the increasing number of people seeking help for mental health conditions will find provision sorely lacking. Parity of esteem remains a buzzword rather than a reality, as mental health conditions represent over a fifth of UK disease burden yet only receive 13% of funding, and budgets were continually slashed by 8% between 2011 and 2016. Promises of increased funding for child & adolescent MH from the Conservative government have proved empty and therefore we demand adequate and equitable funding dedicated to mental health care.

In addition, we are deeply concerned about the staffing and retention crisis plaguing the NHS. More than 1 in 50 posts within the NHS are currently unfilled, a situation compounded by the decision of  the UK government to cut bursaries for nursing students last Spring, which precipitated a 20% drop in applications. With skilled migration from the EU looking likely to be one of the first victims of Brexit, we now more than ever need to invest in growing our health workforce. For this reason we demand the reinstatement of financial support for nursing students.

Finally, we stand by Medsin’s 2015 statement condemning the government’s mishandling of the Junior Doctor’s contract, which both demoralised and depreciated the value of a core part of the NHS workforce. We believe the repeal of the contract must be a core consideration of the next government, and a fairer, safer alternative implemented in its place.

The OurNHS NWG believes that the NHS is a cornerstone of our society and we reaffirm our stance that a publicly run, publicly funded, free at the point of use National Health Service is essential to achieve a fair, just world in which equity in health is a reality for all.

We, as the generation that will be providing health-care, using health-care and paying taxes for health-care, sincerely hope that all political parties will use the election in June as an opportunity to put forward positive policies on the NHS and prioritise our incredible health-care system in their party’s mandate.

We urge voters to think about the future health-care system they want to be treated by and to prioritise the NHS in their decision making processes when they go to cast their vote.

This is the first in a series of blogs on the state of the UK National Health Service in the run up to the June 2017 General Election

Are you interested in assisting in Medsin’s work on the NHS? Email pad@medsin.org to find out how you can get involved

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