Moved by Matisse, Sid Dajani wishes politicians could be as creative in their approach to the NHS

I am a full-time, grassroots, jobbing pharmacist which means I don’t feel guilty working long hours on a tank filled with only one cup of coffee all day – even when a day can be as long as 15 hours. I’m so used to working without a lunch break that I don’t even notice the time. Thinking on my feet all day and trying to stay on top of workloads means closing time is for everyone else. Sometimes I’m here till midnight.

When I’m away doing speeches, consultancies or pharmacy politics, this workload exponentially increases, partly because a visiting locum can’t do everything business related or they aren’t accredited for many of the services I provide.

Pharmacy cuts have also meant I don’t have the luxury to correlate staff numbers to naturally increasing patient demand workloads. I’m not complaining. I’m used to it and so are my family and friends who are repeatedly let down.

So when I have a day off (often unexpectedly) I make the most of it and I usually avoid carrying my phone. However, not on this particular recent occasion. I was a million miles from the stresses of pharmacy and allowing my imagination to run wild at a gallery looking at more than 60 works covering Henri Matisse’s entire career. I was totally immersed when my phone rang. It was a reporter.

Now I’ve had over 500 published articles over the past 18 years, chaired many meetings, done numerous consultancies and delivered over 400 presentations all over the world (without including numerous radio and TV appearances), so it’s fair to say, with each word spoken or published, I risk making myself look like a fool! And yet I keep putting myself in danger as reporters keep coming back for more.

Only this month I was quoted twice in The Daily Mail. So, Matisse had to wait as the reporter asked me about my views of Theresa May calling the election. She said she wouldn’t call an election and then she did. Well, you don’t really expect politicians to keep their word, do you? There was also the question of Labour’s leaked manifesto to reverse pharmacy cuts and their positive policies for the NHS. I explained there was a risk the election could become the “Brexit election” at the exclusion of the health service.

Health is always one of the most important issues for the people of this country and politicians ignore it at their peril. The NHS is in a parlous state because health, unlike defence, is not a Tory strength. It’s a weakness. Despite having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, years of underinvestment in the face of rising patient demand means the NHS is now failing too many patients, too often.

The Tories have ducked the NHS in crisis issues by aiming at Brexit, defence and immigration. They’ve used the NHS as a political football, and under Jeremy Hunt have failed to outline any credible plans that will deliver the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.

And yet I recently heard Theresa May say this will all come right after the election if we vote Tory and ‘get a good Brexit’. Pardon? Even the three blind mice could see that the NHS was in a mess before Brexit and there’s no evidence to say it will get better. We cannot know the upshot of the Brexit terms, so this can’t be a Brexit vote. But we do know the state of the NHS.

Everyone called the election a done-deal for the Tories and the bookies predicted a Tory landslide. UKIP has been about as credible as a North Korean election and the Lib-Dems, like Corbyn’s Labour, are in recovery as they’ve both reported increased new members while the SNP have been pushed onto the back foot. At the time of writing, I think it would be wise to dismiss the pollsters – going on past experiences!

My guess is if Labour delivers its heartland, the SNP does its thing and the LibDems get organised, a hung parliament is not impossible. No matter what spin with grin we’ve read about this election we must not forget the future of the NHS is at stake. Another five years of austerity funding will reduce our health and social care services to a poor service for everyone, especially the lower and middle classes, and inequalities will widen.

Many would agree that what’s important is that the NHS must not get lost in the fog of election post-Brexit brouhaha. By the time you read this, the election result will be known. I fervently hope we’ve ended up with a government that strongly supports the NHS. That may seem implausible but I sincerely hope that doesn’t mean it was impossible!

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