FEBRUARY 26th 2021

Why is it that when the UK does something well, it really is world-class and when it reverts to type it is a morass of bumbling, fluffing around obfuscation and mediocrity?

The roll out of the vaccination programme in England has been a major success, albeit with a few minor hiccups at local implementation level.

However, lung cancer cases have dropped by 25%, the consensus being that when people have a cough, they assume that it is COVID-19 and don’t seek medical aid but monitor the symptoms. There have been no reported cases of influenza during this winter’s flu season. This could be because people have confused it with Covid, social distancing has stopped the transmission of flu or people have stopped contacting their GP as it is difficult to get appointments.

The concentration on Covid has had a knock-on effect on the NHS.

During 2020, many routine NHS services were paused during the peaks of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even with substantial efforts to restart services in periods of lower pressure from the pandemic, waits for care have continued to grow. By December 2020, there were more than 220,000 people waiting more than a year for routine planned care, compared to only 1,500 people in December 2019. 

The new five-year funding settlement for the NHS, and additional funding given to health services to respond to Covid-19 by procuring extra capacity from the independent hospital sector, will go some way to relieving pressures on the service. But because of the scale of the backlog of care and continued workforce shortages, it will take several years before access standards are routinely met again. This means difficult trade-offs between priorities will continue to be made.

A clinical review of the main NHS access standards is currently under way. The interim report proposed changes to how waiting times for A&E, routine hospital, cancer and mental health services will operate in future. Following testing in some parts of the NHS, proposals for new measures of A&E performance are now undergoing public consultation, though new measures for other areas of care will remain under development.

Other aspects of NHS performance have also suffered as of a result of constrained budgets and staff shortages in recent years. There is evidence that access to and quality of primary care and parts of community and mental health services have deteriorated, but the absence of similar targets in these areas means the decline in performance has been less visible.

Source The King’s fund 26th February 2021.

So much for save the NHS. The lockdown policies certainly have protected the NHS from critical overload, but at the expense of regular patient needs. This is going to have long term effects on cardiac, cancer and chronic patient care. The cost of this is almost incalculable and should be factored into the total cost of the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is having problems with his Conservative party MPs. There is huge disquiet about the impact of Carrie Symonds on the policies and appointments of special advisors and staffers at number 10. Two new appointments were made this week and they are friends of Carrie. Boris is visibly swerving and going green and woke on his policies, much to the dismay of much of his cabinet and the new MPs voted in, in the North of England. They are getting feedback from their constituents and are looking at their votes disappearing from sight by the time of the next election. Unless things change, the only hope for the Conservatives is that the Labour party continues being absolutely useless.

There are also noises of dissent coming from within the Cabinet in advance of the budget, due next week. Rishi Sunak is flying kites all over the place and is rumoured to be wanting changes to the tax relief system on pensions and also lifting corporation tax from 19% to 25%. As a possible red herring, he has floated an increase in fuel duty which he would then dismiss allowing him to get away with imposing the other changes. The corporation tax rise would be extremely contentious as low tax is the cornerstone of the post Brexit, Britain is open for business philosophy. This is a major issue for most Conservatives. It is why businesses are still considering operating in the UK post-Brexit and has major implications for the nation and the Conservatives.

As I said at the start, they manage to do one thing wonderfully well and screw up everything else. Why concentrate on green, woke issues when there is an economy to fix? It’s almost like being back home in NZ.

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Lionred

Brought up in a far-left coal mining community and came to NZ when the opportunity arose. Made a career working for blue-chip companies both here and overseas. Developed a later career working on business...