The independent London newspaper

After Covid, the NHS will need its own Marshall Aid Plan

04 March, 2021

‘The NHS is said to be short of 100,000 staff. There are not enough hospital doctors and nurses’

HALT the takeover of dozens of GP surgeries in central London by the US global health giant Centene revealed in this newspaper recently.

That was the challenge thrown down by the shadow Labour health minister Jon Ashworth in the Commons last week.

But whether health secretary Matt Hancock will consider the warning remains to be seen. Ashworth merits support. At the very least, the takeover should be halted.

But Labour should go further. The malaise nibbling away – decimating, some would say – at the resources and foundation of the NHS is deep. What is required is a sweeping change to its finances, nothing less.

For years governments have reluctantly financed the NHS while trimming economies as they went along, leaving this unique institution always on a tottering edge. This has held back its development.

The NHS should be able to divert more of its resources to preventive medicine rather than simply having to treat conditions reactively. If it did, more lives would be saved and consequently expenditure would be reduced.

However, the Covid pandemic will bring matters to a head.

Whatever the fog of war, the duplicity of government propaganda or the acquiescence of a media that should be more critical, the fact is that some kind of equivalent of the annual flu vaccine will have to be given annually to millions of vulnerable people, often elderly, though younger patients will also find themselves in this category.

At present, the NHS is said to be short of 100,000 staff. There are not enough hospital doctors and nurses, GP doctors are under too much pressure and are seeking retirement, pay is low among all levels of hospital staff, the list of ailments facing the NHS is growing.

It can only be turned around by a massive injection of cash as part of a revitalisation programme – more doctors mean the creation of more medical schools, more nurses mean higher pay to attract recruits. The list is endless.

At the end of the Second World War the rich US economy – largely undamaged by the war – poured in billions to repair the economies of Europe. It was known as the Marshall Aid Plan. It helped to restore economies, including Britain’s.

A scheme on the same scale is required to recreate a new revitalised NHS. This is what a cross-alliance of MPs should be setting out to achieve.

Unless this is done governments will have to bear extra costs every year to finance the Covid vaccine drives, and this, unplanned and erratic, will make the NHS more inefficient. Who will take up this cause?

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