Healthcare for all, Parking for some…
“Flagship” policy of Labour manifesto 2017
Those of you who have dared to drive to a hospital in Edinburgh or Glasgow would know the feeing, “I rather pay for the parking fee and get a space than going round in circles and parking outside in the pay & display car park”.
Conservatives have not done any favours to NHS hence the hopes were high with Labour until they proudly announced that they will make the hospital parking free across the whole England, if they win. The scary bit of this announcement is not the free parking itself but how they are going to fund it. We will talk about that later but first I want to address the issue of free parking, is it really a good idea.
Most if not all NHS hospitals have more than one means of transport that would provide easy access to the public. It is almost impossible not to have a bus route going through your local hospital, very often they are walking distance from the local train station and above all most trust provide patient transport services for disabled and needy. In these circumstances only those people would travel to hospital who are looking for any easy ride, have means to pay and wish to travel on their on schedule. Surely these people would not mind paying some extra bucks to enable them to find a parking space. Even with a parking fee it is often a struggle to find a parking space in most hospitals but making it free would make it extremely chaotic and those who are most needy are likely to suffer the most. Free parking means chaos and queues.
However what troubles me the most is the way they are suggesting to fund it , “..by increasing the tax on private medical insurance premiums”. This policy by itself suggests that political point scorers are still not aware of the grave problems NHS face. The fact of the matter is that NHS needs some breathing space and it is the private sector who is capable to provide that room. Labour are proud to, rightly so, create NHS but they need to realise now that the population dynamics, disease burden and medical technologies have all changed over last 50 years. Trying to fund a free health service from primary care to tertiary care level is an unachievable task in the modern world. This is a black hole which no country can fill regardless of how rich they are. For NHS to stay as the best healthcare organization in the world they need to be able to invest in the best preventive medicine along with the top tertiary level care with focus on evidence based medicine and research. To enable the service to do this well the current work load has to be reduced and the only way possible is to let the private sector flourish. Currently the huge middle class in UK find it impossible to afford the private health insurance as not only the premiums are very high but the options of services available are limited. In contrary to the Labour manifesto, government should encourage more investments in the private sector, incentivise the industry to lower the premiums and make it affordable for the middle class population, encouraging more people to shun the NHS queues. That would inevitably mean that more people would go to private sector for non-complicated issues and reduce the burden on NHS. We need scores of private polyclinics all over the country where patients can access affordable consultations, have radiological and lab investigations and even minor to moderate level surgeries. This would divert millions of people from NHS to the private sector to get a CT scan, repair hernia or plaster a fracture. That means millions of extra appointments for most needy and also prevent a class system as NHS would continue to cater for serious health issues for all.
Concept is the same as paid parking space, “I rather pay and get a parking space - I rather pay and get a quick, affordable and quality healthcare”. For that to happen the political parties need to open their eyes to this new reality and let the private health sector flourish in the country. NHS trusts and patients do not need free parking space, they are looking for some breathing space.