04 July 2023

Sajid Javid calls for royal commission into the NHS

04 July 2023

Former health secretary Sajid Javid has called for a royal commission into the NHS, describing the service as “frozen in time”.

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the health service on Wednesday, Mr Javid said both major political parties privately believe the NHS is “unsustainable” in its current form and will increasingly be unable to cope with surging levels of demand, despite record levels of funding.

Downing Street rejected the call for a royal commission, insisting the reforms being implemented by the Government would improve outcomes.

Writing in The Times, Mr Javid said a “dispassionate and honest assessment” of the NHS is required to “make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years”.

To make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years, we need a royal commission

He said: “No universal healthcare system is perfect, but when you compare health outcomes in the UK with similar countries, it is clear that for decades we have fallen short across successive governments.

“It’s a direct consequence of how the NHS is still structured. Since it was established in 1948, the world has significantly changed — yet much of the institution remains frozen in time.”

Highlighting Britain’s ageing population and the lingering impact of the pandemic, Mr Javid said the supply of healthcare will continue to be outstripped by soaring demand.

“All of this is at a time of record funding for the NHS,” he wrote.

“In 2000, the health budget accounted for 27 per cent of day-to-day UK public spending; next year it will hit 44 per cent, larger than the GDP of Greece.

“The entire British state is on the verge of becoming a subsidiary of the NHS.”

Mr Javid also pointed to the “politicisation” of the NHS and its future as a key factor in the health service’s present struggles.

“Set up correctly, a royal commission can be the force to help break the current deadlock,” he said, stressing it should be used to “assess what structural reforms are required and how we should be learning from other countries”.

Mr Javid added: “Now is the time for the national interest to come to the fore with a collective mandate for reform.

“To make sure the NHS is here in another 75 years, we need a royal commission.”

The veteran Conservative politician suggested some NHS hospitals were lagging behind elsewhere in Europe in terms of the way they are run.

He told LBC: “We are actually investing in technology but whenever the NHS looks at innovation and looks at doing things differently, it just seems too slow, the model seems to adopt it too slowly.

“There is still something like 600-plus fax machines being used in the NHS, there is some 80,000 pagers.

“More than 10% of hospitals are entirely paper-based. You wouldn’t find that anywhere else in Europe.

“In this day and age, there are a whole set of changes that can be made that would help the workforce, I think they would welcome it to help them do their job, release some pressure and help them do what they want to do, which is look after more patients.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman defended the reforms being pushed through by the Government.

“There’s no plans for a royal commission or things like that. Royal commissions can take time and we think, in order to cut waiting lists, we need to act now and that’s what we’re doing,” the spokesman said.

Downing Street highlighted changes including the new workforce plan, the creation of integrated care systems and the use of virtual wards as a sign the Government was “pushing through reforms to how the NHS operates”.

“It’s right that we don’t seek to stand still and that will continue,” the spokesman said.

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