More than 70 years after it was established, the NHS is facing arguably the worst crisis in its history. The impact of the coronavirus, lockdowns and inflation has seen waiting lists soar and staff take to the streets. The Government has poured in billions to fix the problems. But even without the current crisis, an ageing population is putting increasingly intolerable pressure on both the health service and its underlying model.
That is why Lord Saatchi, former chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies, has relaunched his campaign for a cross-party Royal Commission on the NHS, to set the health service on a firm and financially stable footing for the coming decades. As part of the campaign the CPS is republishing his two original papers on the topic.
Originally published to coincide with the NHS’ 70th birthday, ‘An NHS Royal Commission – From Fighting Fires to a Lasting Settlement’ was published in 2017, with the follow-up paper ‘A Royal Commission on the NHS: The Remit’ published in 2018. Both received endorsements from multiple national newspapers, commentators and politicians from all parties.
In the papers, Lord Saatchi argues that governments working within the constraints of the electoral cycle cannot risk mooting radical reform of the current system. Only a Royal Commission can look beyond the current problems and consider dispassionately the long-term challenges facing the NHS: an ageing population, social care, funding, the growing prevalence of financially draining chronic disease, the impact of poverty on health outcomes, labour market shortages, and the growing cost of innovation and funding.
Lord Saatchi, author of the papers, said:
‘Any debate about shortcomings in the NHS always comes back to money but the problems in the system run much deeper than that. No political party can solve the problems the NHS is facing. Their opponents will immediately denounce them.
‘The NHS is now the ultimate Post-Truth world – Fake News and Alternative Facts. Only the immense investigatory powers of the royal commission (e.g. summoning witnesses under oath, offering indemnities, seizing evidence) is capable of leading public opinion and providing legitimacy for the hard decisions which lie ahead.’