Suzanne Evans : Her 30th January speech on the NHS, in full

Here is the full text of Suzanne Evans’ speech made at Stoke on Trent, 30th January 2017

“Some weeks are more emotionally challenging than others. This week’s been one of those weeks; emotionally, we’ve put ourselves through the wringer. The organisation chose me for this role because I’m resilient, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t go home sometimes, walk through the front door and start crying, because I do. I’ve never done it in the office, I’ll always wait till I get home, but I do because I’ve had a day when you just think: that was the day from hell, I don’t know what went so horribly wrong there. And I’ve got to make it right the next day.”

” The words of Lesley Powls, one of the stars of ‘Hospital,’ the new BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary that lifts the lid on just how overstretched our acute hospitals are. She is one tough cookie. She’s not a doctor, so her anguish isn’t about loosing patients. Lesley is the Site Director, and she’s the one who regularly has to make heartrending decisions – in consultation with medics – about which desperately needy patient with a life-threatening condition gets the only vacant bed, and which one has their operation cancelled and gets sent home.

No wonder she sometimes breaks down.

We’ve all heard about the funding crisis in the NHS and read the headlines about hospitals on ‘black alert’ unable to guarantee emergency care; ambulances queuing up outside A&E; patients stuck on trolleys in corridors for hours on end; unsafe staffing levels; drug rationing; and the latest cutback: denying hip or knee replacements to patients whose pain isn’t so bad that they can’t sleep.

But seeing the chaos in action on our TV screens brings home just how bad it is. The BBC may be filming at just one hospital Trust, but the problems are country-wide, and not least here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Health needs in this part of the world are huge. Stoke has the fifth highest suicide rate in England. People who live here are likely to die three years earlier than the national average, and that gap is widening. Infant mortality rates are considerably higher than the England average; teenage pregnancies are the second worst in England; and a quarter of children live in poverty, which in general means they’re not going to be as healthy as they should be.

Older people suffer poorer health here too. Injuries due to falls are the highest in the West Midlands – not least because there’s a significant shortage of suitable housing for the elderly. Excess winter deaths among older people have risen for the third calculation period in a row and are higher than both the national and regional rate. The over 65s account for 70% of all bed days at the Royal Stoke hospital.

So, here we have people in desperate need of good, local NHS services, but the system that should be caring for them, is itself in need of emergency care.

The Royal Stoke is one of those acute hospitals so overstretched it’s working with the Red Cross to try and ease the pressure. A&E waiting times are among the worst in the country. 336 patients have waited on trolleys for a bed for more than 12 hours since April last year. Thirty patients have waited more than a year for treatment, and the Royal Stoke had to cancel 337 planned operations in November alone, mostly in order to cope with the rising numbers of emergency patients arriving at A&E who needed to be admitted to hospital.

Like every other acute centre in the country, there will be doctors and people like Lesley Powls, running around at the Royal Stoke, hunting for patients to discharge, or hot-footing it up to the Intensive Care Unit to see if any patients there have recovered sufficiently to be moved onto a general ward. Because only then can a complex, life-saving, planned operation on another patient go ahead, and that patient be put on essential life-support afterwards.

This is the grim reality of the NHS today: one patient’s care comes at the expense of another’s.

It’s not what doctors and nurses signed up for. Despite their clear round-the-clock commitment, dedication and expertise, those on the frontline are working in the face of intolerable and completely unacceptable pressure, yet it seems they get little thanks for their efforts. What I call ‘Seagull’ politicians, managers and regulators don’t take much notice when things are going well, but they’ll quickly swoop in and do what seagulls do best all over them when they fail.

Politicians and bureaucrats have starved the NHS of funding for decades and, worse, they’ve put additional stress of the service with unreasonable demands and counterproductive policies.

Mass, uncontrolled immigration – which puts considerably more pressure on the system, is the obvious example, but by no means the only one. Umpteen top-down edicts have pretty much set the system up to fail.

There’ve been nine major, top-down re-organisations of the NHS since 1973, an average of one every four and a half years. As one nurse consultant told me during the last one in 2011, “It’s all too much. We’d just got our heads around the last re-organisation and got it working, and now they’re changing it again.”

There’s rarely any period of settled organisation, and that has major implications. It’s disrupting for staff and staff relationships; there are huge practical and cost implications for training and learning; and of course the benefits of previous re-organisations can be lost.

NHS staff all too frequently find themselves working under a kind of ‘Targets and Terror’ regime. Too often, politicians who can’t be bothered to make the necessary investment in care, set arbitrary targets instead to make it look as if they’re doing something about a particular problem. These targets often aren’t based on scientific evidence or clinical outcomes, but in the short term satisfy the demands of a baying press and boost their standing with the public. But to see the potentially catastrophic impact in the longer term, we only have to look to Stafford, just up the road, where chasing centrally imposed targets had tragic consequences. When targets are put before clinical judgment and patient care, the results can be fatal.

The fact the NHS is already massively underfunded doesn’t of course stop politicians making cuts, regardless of adverse impact or risk assessments. It’s all so short-sighted. Too often any cost savings made are dwarfed by cost of hiring locum and agency workers to fill the gaps left by burnt out and disillusioned staff.

This is a classic problem here in Stoke, where staff take an average of 15 days each year off sick, most frequently quoting stress, anxiety and depression, and where agency staff costs across the whole Trust and all health provision reached £44 million in the last financial year.

When money is spent, it’s often spent in the wrong way. Another unrealistic, centrally imposed plan, perhaps? One, which like targets, isn’t based on evidence, but political belief?

Or failing that, there’s always a way to waste precious clinical time by insisting on a raft of form filling, data collection, administrative tasks, and pointless statutory training and re-training exercises for staff who really don’t need it. Take the surgeon I spoke to recently who complained about the stupidity of being forced to go on a course to improve his bedside manner, despite never having had any complaints in 20 years.

It’s madness. Both Labour and the Tories have together created the conditions in which healthcare workers are inevitably going to struggle, and instead of recognising their mistake, and correcting it, and – god-forbid – apologising, guess what? Yes, they blame the healthcare workers for not complying with their unreasonable demands.

I admit I was furious when I saw a couple of weeks ago that, having already gone to war with junior doctors, the Tory party has now turned it’s fire on GPs. “Work longer hours, seven days a week, or we’ll cut your cash,” was basically the message.

It was typical knee-jerk, sound-bite, ‘blame-game’ politics.

When we released our 2015 General Election manifesto, the Royal College of GPs told us we were at least 8,000 GPs short. So we found the money to train 8,000 more GPs, over time – it takes ten years to train a GP, you can’t magic them up overnight. But how many more GPs would we need to implement Jeremy Hunt’s proposals for a seven-day a week, twelve hour a day service? One of my team has crunched the numbers, and well, they’re completely unfeasible, running into the tens of thousands.

So Jeremy, I’d like to say this: you’ve promised 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, but at the rate you’re losing them by being so utterly unrealistic in your demands, and so condescending, you stand no chance. How about, instead of putting so much pressure on our doctors that 1500 of them every year quit the NHS for jobs in places like Australia and New Zealand, where they’re paid twice as much, for half the work, have access to far better facilities, and can spend their free time in the sunshine, how about you get off their backs?

But it’s Labour’s appalling record that I really want to turn my focus on this morning.

If Nye Bevan were here today, I think he’d be disgusted with the Labour party, given the number of Labour policies that have helped bring the NHS he inaugurated to the brink of destruction.

Neither he, nor William Beveridge, the Liberal politician whose vision for the NHS Bevan enacted, ever imagined our NATIONAL health service would be allowed to become an INTERNATIONAL health service. The NHS wasn’t set up to provide free healthcare to the world. It wasn’t even set up to provide free healthcare to Europe. It was set up to provide free healthcare to UK citizens.

If we want our NHS to remain free at the point of delivery – and UKIP unequivocally does – then we have to make it a NATIONAL health service once again.

Since Tony Blair opened the borders in 1997, some nine million immigrants have arrived in Britain – well, England mostly – but NHS funding hasn’t risen in line with demand.

But then, the NHS and quality of patient care for the British taxpayers who were picking up the bill was the last thing blinkered Labour politicians thought of when they welcomed so many new migrants to Britain. No. Top of their priorities was ‘rubbing the nose of the right in diversity,’ to quote Blair’s speechwriter.

Political point scoring came first, and still does, which is why it’s nigh-on impossible to have any kind of sensible conversation with anyone in the Labour party about immigration and the NHS. They still shut down conversation by screaming ‘Racist!’ like latter-day Witch Finder Generals, and spouting straw man rubbish such as ‘The NHS would collapse without immigrants,’ or ‘if you don’t want immigrants in the NHS, don’t let an immigrant doctor save your life.’

Puerile, pathetic, playground. Typical of Labour’s response to any serious issue it doesn’t want to face.

Immigrants are not to blame: Labour is.

Then of course there was Labour’s stupendously stupid ‘buy one hospital, pay for six,’ idea.

Yes, that’s the upshot of Labour’s great PFI swindle. Buy one hospital, pay for six.

Labour opposes NHS privitisation? Don’t make me laugh. The Tories might have written the privitisation instruction booklet, but Labour embraced and replicated it with religious fervour.

Labour rebuilt hospitals using private loans at credit card rates of interest, signing contracts that would cost the NHS dearly, but make billions for the private sector. In this hospital trust alone, we’re talking about a build cost of £415m, with total repayments reaching £2.7 billion. As I said, more than six times the original construction cost.

Labour’s dodgy deal is still costing the Royal Stoke some £58m a year in loan repayments. That’s around 8% of its total annual budget. Imagine what the hospital could do with 8% more money to spend on patient care?

Labour has utterly betrayed the NHS. They crow about how they founded it. They claim it as their own. But in truth, they’re like abusive parents who’ve been stealing from their own children.

Labour is not the party of the NHS, still less the party that will save the NHS. Labour is the party that must never, ever again be allowed to run the NHS.

Over the coming months, I’ll be developing UKIP’s health policy and in doing so will make it a priority to focus not on political advantage but on what’s right for patients and healthcare professionals. I’ll be listening to the team I’m gathering around me with expertise in health and social care, and together we’ll seek and offer practical ways to solve the funding and resources shortfalls that are pushing the NHS to breaking point.

What I’m determined not to do is create short-sighted, knee-jerk policies which put additional pressure on already over-stressed, over-faced and under-funded staff. I want to focus on policies that don’t just improve the health of the nation, but which also improve job-satisfaction for NHS workers.

I’d like at this point to remind you that at the 2015 General election, UKIP was the ONLY political party that could both promise an extra £3bn a year for the NHS, plus an additional £1.2 billion a year for social care, and show you where the money was coming from.

I intend sticking with this responsible, common sense approach.

So where do we stand on policy right now?

First, let me make it crystal clear once again: UKIP is 100% committed to keeping the NHS free at the point of delivery.

And of course it will come as no surprise that we wholeheartedly welcome the fact Britain’s going to leave the EU because this gives us the chance to make dramatic changes to our immigration system which in turn – provided it’s well managed – will give the NHS that vital breathing space it so desperately needs.

UKIP will continue to advocate for an Australian-style points-based immigration system which will never pull up the drawbridge, but which will make sure those who walk over it are not unwittingly draining the NHS of resources.

To this end, it remains UKIP policy that all new immigrants to the UK should pay tax and national insurance for at least five consecutive years before becoming eligible to access non-urgent NHS care, and that they must hold private healthcare insurance for themselves and any dependents in the interim.

Our stance on health tourism will remain unashamedly uncompromising. We will put the ‘N’ back into the NHS. Standing up for the NHS must mean speaking out against those who deliberately come here to drain NHS resources and rip off British taxpayers to the tune of some £2 billion every year. This has to stop, and in my view, politicians who do not speak out against this are the enemies of the NHS, not its friends.

UKIP also remains committed to putting considerable additional funds into the NHS and social care. We promised £4.2 billion extra in 2015, but I soon hope to announce that we will be going much further than that.

My UKIP colleagues William Dartmouth and Lisa Duffy will be speaking at our Spring conference on 17th February about how removing barriers to trade is a far more effective way to tackle poverty and corruption in developing countries than handing out aid payments.

UKIP fundamentally disagrees with the current government’s policy on foreign aid, and we’re in the process of identifying unnecessary and ineffectual non-emergency aid spending, and we will divert a considerable portion of that money into the NHS.

I’m also pleased our policy committee has just recommitted to our 2015 manifesto pledge to end the use of PFI contracts in the NHS. The private shareholders and hedge fund managers who invested in them, and who are now laughing all the way to the bank, sicken us. This scandal must stop and must never be allowed to happen again.

My role as UKIP’s NHS champion is to defend our National Health Service, find the money to invest in patient care, and then, frankly, get out of the way. I’m not a medic. I don’t have the life-saving skills of a surgeon or the diagnostic skills of a GP, nor the patience or caring skills of a nurse, so the last thing I should do is interfere and stop them getting on with their jobs.

The health and wellbeing of the people of Stoke-on-Trent, who are perhaps in need of the NHS more than most of us, depends on a sensible, coherent approach to getting out of this crisis, and this is what UKIP will aim for.

We will find the money and the resources to enable the NHS can save lives, provide quality healthcare, and put patients first. In other words, UKIP will put in place the support and infrastructure the NHS needs so it can get on with the job it was created to do and which, despite all odds, it is still doing remarkably well.”

The full text of the speech is provided below as a PDF document


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