With the NHS facing yet another winter crisis, leading to the cancellation of tens of thousands of non-urgent operations in January, there has been a groundswell of support – including recent editorials in the Telegraph, Sun and Daily Mail – for Lord Saatchi’s proposal for a Royal Commission to safeguard its future.
Today, a follow-up report by Lord Saatchi and Dominic Nutt sets out the remit and priorities that such a Commission should adopt, in order to address the NHS’s most important problems.
The NHS enjoys near-universal support. Some 89% of British adults support a national health system that is tax-funded, free at the point of use, and provides comprehensive care for all. But its problems go far beyond the financial. And people do not trust politicians to come up with the answers.
The UK ranks 20th out of 23 countries for breast and bowel cancer survival. It is in the bottom third of countries for heart attack deaths. A boy born in Blackpool has a life expectancy of a decade less than a boy born in Kensington. People with severe mental illness continue to lose up to 20 years in life expectancy.
A Royal Commission for the NHS: The Remit, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, sets out how a Royal Commission can ensure the NHS delivers the best outcomes on a sustainable financial basis over the coming decades.
This body, which would have the power to coerce witnesses to testify under oath, would examine the structure, organisation and funding of the health service, addressing such issues as the ageing population; the connection between health and social care; medical price inflation; the gap in outcomes between rich and poor; the case for and against greater private sector involvement; potential additional sources of funding; and the use of patient data.
Lord Saatchi said:
“The wonderful dream of the NHS is turning into a recurring winter nightmare – and leaving it alone is a recipe for long-term catastrophe. A Royal Commission can cut through the Gordian knot, and put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the years to come.”
Robert Colvile, Director for the Centre for Policy Studies, said:
“As it turns 70, the NHS is suffering from multiple chronic conditions. A Royal Commission can provide the kind of full-scale diagnosis needed to restore it to health, rather than having the health service limp on as best it can.”