The man behind the mic: Don’t play games with our NHS

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
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I love all the old game shows that we used to have on the telly - Terry Wogan and Les Dawson with their Blankety Blank, cheque books and pens – Supermatch game, Supermatch game (sing along if you know it).

You couldn’t beat a bit of bully with Jim Bowen, as each Sunday night he would manfully do his best to convince a young couple, who lived in a two bed semi, that a speedboat was indeed the perfect prize for them and who could forget Brucie’s, Play Your Cards Right – “You get nothing for a pair, not in this game.” It was a staple of our weekend viewing in the early 80s but it is perhaps not the best format to be applied to our NHS.

However it appears the Dolly Dealers of the three main political parties have other ideas, as they all compete to go “higher” or “lower” with their funding promises after the next election.

The Chancellor, George Osborne went first with a pledge of an extra £2bn, Ed Milliband went “higher” with £2.5bn and Nick Clegg has trumped them all with his £8bn promise to plug the funding gap.

But when are any of them going to address the real issues that are causing our amazing health care service to groan and creak under the weight of expectation placed upon it?

When health secretary Aneurin Bevan opened Park Hospital in Manchester on July 5th 1948, it was the climax of a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together, under one umbrella organisation, to provide services that were free for all, at the point of delivery.

The population in Peterborough in 1948 was around 70,000, in the whole of the UK it was around 50 million.

It took another 57 years to get to 60 million, but according to the Office for National Statistics, the population of Britain is set to increase at its fastest rate in at least a century and by 2029 we will hit 70 million, driven in part, by an immigrant “baby boom.”

You don’t need to be a contestant on Mastermind to see that we have a service that was not built to cope with the demands of a much larger population. It doesn’t really matter who is in charge, how much money they pour in or how hard the staff work (and boy do they), something, fundamentally has to change.

We cannot have people in genuine need being turned away from A&E and those that are accepted waiting seven or eight hours for much needed attention.

It’s completely unacceptable for Peterborough City Hospital to have to cancel operations and have forty people in beds who are medically fit, but that have nowhere in the community to go to.

The politicians were brave in 1948 and made bold decisions for the good of the people and we will be ever thankful for that. Now is the time for their modern day counter parts, of all colours, to show a similar level of courage and inspiration and come up with a plan to ensure that a healthy NHS survives for future generations, with no idea discounted, however unpalatable.

The Countdown clock is ticking, the Wheel of Fortune is spinning and time is running out.

- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Breakfast Show host writes for the Peterborough Telegraph