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Politicians need to step up and create public health service that's fit to deliver best care for all patients

A year ago, in conversation with a clinical consultant in Northern Ireland, he said: "The NHS is really good at deep specialist procedures, but we are really bad at delivering the routine stuff." Maybe managing - or failing to manage - waiting lists falls within that description.

On that basis, I was interested in what new thinking on delivering health and social care our political parties would bring to the table at this election - especially those seeking political change at the top. Studying their manifestos, what is abundantly clear is that all parties are very good at rehearsing the already-known, systemic failures, yet make big promises about the future - all delivered within the same, struggling system.

There is a lot of talk about "extra funding". However, all of the parties fail to address, within a finite block grant, where this money will come from and what other Executive programmes may be curtailed to balance the books.

Simply pouring more money into an overwhelmed model of care and re-arranging the deckchairs of our health structures will not do.

The focus must centre on better patient and client outcomes. Within the near-£4.6bn we spend on frontline healthcare, we need to develop a mixed economy of care provision where the question is who can best deliver the outcomes we need across hospital, primary and community care rather than letting sectoral, or political, bias be the enemy of a better system for all.

Other countries with a public health service - such as Spain - have successfully implemented mixed economy models of care and, in doing so, cut costs, reduced waiting times and delivered better outcomes.

We are far too precious about the NHS. If other countries can successfully challenge the status quo of their public healthcare systems, why can't our political parties show the same initiative?


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