Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

NHS truths that dare not speak their name

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 22 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4983
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Is the solution to the NHS’s woes now a taboo topic?

Trying to make political capital out of the NHS is risky. If the effort fails—as it did for the Labour Party in this year’s general election—you are left opening and closing your mouth with nothing much to say.

Labour’s bid to “weaponise” the NHS was a dismal failure. Nobody seemed to care that much. The claim that the Conservatives were planning to privatise the service fell on even deafer ears. The NHS Action Party fielded a dozen candidates and polled fewer votes in total than the majority won by the health secretary for England in his South West Surrey seat. Opinion polls indicated not only that electors were tolerant of austerity, they actually welcomed it.

The result has been to close the book for the moment on the default position held by many in the NHS—and even more of its supporters outside—that more money is the answer to its problems. It doesn’t make this position wrong, but it makes it harder to voice. Hasn’t the government already promised £8bn (€11bn; $12.3bn)? Isn’t that enough? Not unless another £22bn can be saved by 2020 from budgets that are already bust, and nobody …

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