Ask the average person in the street for their opinions on the NHS and I would put decent money on the following comments being made (in no particular order):
It can always be relied upon when it comes to a real emergency.
The waiting time to see specialists is shorter than it once was.
There seem to be an awful lot of non-front line staff in certain departments wandering around with pieces of paper, chatting to each other.
The cost of hospital car parks is extortionate.
These are the sort of things we (as what the corporate jargoneers love to call ‘front-end users’) actually experience.
We suspect there may well be hidden battalions of paper-pushers at most hospitals and primary care trusts, but as we never see them when we are having our bones mended or lumps probed, we don’t give them much thought.
Unfortunately, politicians never see the NHS as we do. They regard it as a permanent battlefield, where vast armies are deployed and endless strategies played out.
The generals on both sides pledge their love and admiration for the NHS. Then they immediately set about blasting it with a bombardment of principle, policies and good, old-fashioned prejudice.
Meanwhile, those who survive the collateral damage are left to pick among the ruins hoping there is something still worth saving.
It is the Alliance’s turn at the moment and there is no doubting the sincerity of David Cameron’s regard for the NHS after the way in which it cared for his severely-disabled son. It was this as much as anything which convinced voters to trust the Conservative leader – but he is being ambushed from within.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley wants to preside over yet another massive upheaval in the structure of the NHS, despite Cameron’s assurances to the contrary.
The Lib Dems abhor these plans and (with the medical professions) are plotting to dilute them at best and scrap them at worst. Meanwhile, Cameron is preoccupied with damping down fires which continue to smoulder and flare.