Political parties using NHS to win votes, poll suggests

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Nearly three quarters of the public believe the political parties are designing health policy to win votes, and not what is best for the NHS, a poll has suggested.

The survey of almost 2,000 people in the UK found 73% were sceptical about the motivation of politicians.

One in four also said they were dissatisfied with the way the NHS was being run.

The survey was commissioned by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The poll carried out by Ipsos Mori also found two-thirds wanted the NHS to manage itself without the involvement of politicians.

Another 46% also said politicians should have low or no involvement in how the NHS is run.

That was one of the aims of the reforms introduced by Andrew Lansley when he was health secretary.

But commentators have noted that since Jeremy Hunt has replaced him there has been a push to retain a much more hands-on approach.


The poll was released at the start of the BMA's annual conference, which is being held in Harrogate.

BMA leader Dr Mark Porter said: "The government promised to remove micromanagement from the NHS and yet the opposite has happened.

"There are even claims that NHS England, set up to be independent of Whitehall, is being manipulated for political purposes."

He also mentioned a key policy put forward by Labour - the pledge to offer GP appointments within 48 hours - adding: "Patient care is taking a back seat to scoring points over the dispatch box."

Dr Porter said "doctors want to see politics taken out of the NHS once and for all", saying it was "clear that the public feel the same way".

He went on to accuse the government of wasting money on "untested policies" and promised doctors would continue to "fight" for what was right for the NHS in the lead up to the election.

Both the government and Labour party defended their approaches.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "Our reforms cut unnecessary red tape and gave doctors and nurses, who know their patients best, the power and freedom to make decisions in the best interests of their local community."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Labour said access to GPs was a real problem and its plans, which include additional funding, were a "serious" attempt to improve services.

Seven-day services

Doctors at the conference also raised concerns about the push to create seven-day hospital services in England.

The move - set out by NHS England last year - involves improving access to a whole range of urgent and emergency services on a Saturday and Sunday over the next three years with the idea that more routine services, such as non-emergency operations, could follow afterwards.

A motion passed at the conference said extra resources and payments for anti-social hours would be needed.

Anaesthetist Dr Robert Harwood, of the BMA's consultants committee, said: "We have real reservations what whether it can be afforded within the current budget."

Bruce Hughes, a member of the BMA's GP committee, attacked the idea of a "24 hours a day seven day a week utopia which is just for the sake of a political gimmick". He accused politicians of policy by soundbite, saying the plan was "a pathetic attempt to get re-elected in 12 months".

He said: "You don't expect routine appointments with your lawyer or accountant on Sunday evening."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    449.Henry Hazlitt

    457.Bob Roberts

    "Local government workers and school support staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have voted to strike over pay, public service union Unison has said."

    I bet you are tearing of your toupe in a right rage, let the election begin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    @449.Henry Hazlitt
    "Why you need a law to be kind to someone in need?"
    Because many people are selfish and won't be kind.
    "How you wanting others hard earned wages to be spent on you is not "selfish" of you?"
    It would be, but that's a straw man for a number of reasons, not least that we are talking about public money not hard earned wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    The trouble with the NHS is that the comfortably off have an alternative. They can go private. Consequently the comfortably off resent having to pay a health tax for the good of people other than themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, the less well off have no alternative and receive excellent free care. The less well off treasure the NHS. There is such a thing as society after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    That was my point. We do not have radical communists telling businesses how to run because we still see it as the prerogative of business owners to run their businesses as they see fit (and why shouldn't they). Union leaders here are mainly fanatical communists leading small pressure groups demanding 100% taxation of the rich to fund everything for free for those who don't contribute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Just seen a news item about a clinician tricked into revealing confidential patient data, to 2 private investigators she thought were police officers.

    That's the calibre of person many people think should be running the NHS (i.e. doctors) unencumbered by our elected representatives. Heaven help us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    I believe politicians should have a say on the NHS as it is a public service. However, I do feel comments should be restricted to ensure the NHS follows as close as possible to its original principles and how to maintain it. The public will decide with they don't want it but I hope that day never comes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    I'm not convinced that putting power in the hands of clinicians/professionals is the way forward.This would result in the NHS being run for the benefit of those who work in it, not those who use it.
    One simple way to improve matters is to ensure that everyone who works in the NHS speaks good English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    People need to stop critisising the NHS. No it should not be a political football, yes it needs some reforms. BUT, how many of you have regular prescriptions? I picked mine up today, £8.05, for 3 items......which would have cost £60 if not via NHS. The problem is, people don't see the value in what they are getting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    "A healthcare or elderly care service can be provided by profit or not-for-profit organisations and paid for entirely or subsidised by the state."
    This is how it works in France. Primary healthcare and medicines are private. You pay, and the state refunds you. A&E and operations are provided directly like the NHS. It works pretty well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    What a surprise! I think they do exactly the same with the immigration. Sadly, it works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    448.Bob Roberts

    You tell the ex mining/steel etc communites that once thrived and are now riddled by drugs and crime how much they idiolized Thatcher. In the blinkered world of the right whinge our banking service sector economy which is soley reliant on housing bubbles was not born out of Thatchers deregulation privatization and is not responsible for any of todays woes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Henry is a well known HYS Libertarian troll who, like all his/her ilk, cares nothing for those less fortunate than s/he is & is just concerned about protecting her/his own selfish interests.
    Thank you for the insults.

    Can you explain;

    Why you need a law to be kind to someone in need?

    How you wanting others hard earned wages to be spent on you is not "selfish" of you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    To be fair, even the left admit Thatcher was something of a goddess. (Of course, they don't know it). But they actually believe that one woman was so powerful that she single-handedly wiped out manufacturing (that was in decline since the late 60s, and doubled its output over her rule anyway) and could be responsible for our problems 30 years later, even after leaving her mortal form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    @439.Bob. Obviously you do not have "a radical communist telling you how to work". How do we know this? Because the German system works for the benefit of both management and employee, and churns out some desirable quality product. Sadly, your statement is perhaps a perfect example of why such an approach would not work here in the UK. Perhaps the old class system has something to do with it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Not exactly earth shattering news regarding the NHS being manipulated by politicians of various colours. It seems that each of the parties wants to claim ownership when in fact the real owners are the tax paying electorate. Why elected politicians, supposedly intelligent beings, cannot put political dogma to one side on NHS matters is a mystery. Unaminity on MP's pay and allowances OK

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    The NHS has always been a political football for politicians who use it for their own ends forgetting it is for those who need medical services and it is not about profit and Health Ministers showing how tough they are. Like education it should be moved away from direct ministerial interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.


    Divided by income competition, we have doctors, nurses & other professionals priced-out of employment AND priced out of representative managerial responsibility. Those in employment are overstretched & like their patients under-supported: theory tells our masters we MUST have at least 5% unemployed to deter low-paid in 'wage demands'. Need: NOT 'more money', but EQUALITY.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    416.Kurt Herman "The trade union movement should have an input into the management of business where it is present. Look to Germany for example"

    If only. The culture in Germany is very different. In the UK, the unions don't work for the good of all, they work for their own Marxist political ends, namely bringing down governments they don't agree with. Class warriors the lot of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    "The public want the best of services but they don't want to go through the hardship of achieving it and they don't want it to cost them anything."
    I have no problem with my taxes going to the NHS. And I would love to take the billions spent on Trident and useless aircraft carriers that will be obsolete before they're built, and spend it on the NHS, education, and renewable energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    The NHS is unsupportable. If we want technology, modern facilities alongside a rising population we are going to have to pay for it. Insurance is the only viable answer and the free bit must return to a basic service for all. NI should be reduced to reflect this as we take out our own policies to meet individual needs. Politicians get involved to manage this change, strategic NOT micromanagement.


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