February 9, 2010

We all want our political representatives to protect the NHS. They all say they will. I look at what the NHS has given me, and I understand why.

I had free ante-natal care- I had a midwife, visit me at home weekly, due to a history of miscarriages. I had regular scans. I was fully supported in my choice to have a home birth, and then, at the 11th hour, when it was not possible, gave birth in a birthing centre, which was well staffed, and left alone as much as I wanted to be.

I get free contraception. I have never once, had to figure out how to pay for the contraception which means I don’t have to consider having any more children, until I am in a position to care for them.

If my daughter is ill, I have NHS direct, and my free access to my GP, or in worst case scenarios, to an ambulance and whatever medical care she needs, without worrying about money. I have never had to worry about whether or not I had insurance.

So I am grateful to the NHS, and when politicians say they are prepared to protect it- I am glad.

However, it appears to me that protection of the NHS is seen as a commitment to public services.

We have a situation at the moment, where we, as a country, are facing massive public service cuts. While I may have opinions on whether or not this is the best way to tackle a recession, I know that they will be wide ranging, and I know that in many areas, they have already been seen.

THe first place I saw cuts in action, was my local authority. And here is my point.

The budgets for the following, are managed by your local authority. Care for the elderly, social services, which protect our most vulnerable children. The services which are responsible for the corporate parenting of the population of children we have, who are looked after by Local Authorities. Leaving care teams, which manage the transition of these children to adulthood.

I see cuts proposed in local authorities, accepted by people, who believe that local authorities manage little more than their roads, and their rubbish collection.

Your local authorities revenue, in part, comes from payment of council tax. In areas like mine, rising unemployment will already have an impact on the revenue they receive, as the levels of council tax they receive, fall, while rates of housing benefit paid out, rise.

I personally, want to see commitment that public service cuts for the absolute most vulnerable people in our society, are not going to be dressed up as efficiency savings for local authorities.

I want politicians to show that they are aware of what our local authorities do, and ‘ringfencing’ those services and those service users, to protect them.

In Leeds, they are facing massive staff cuts already, at a time when their childrens services is already crumbling. While the reasons for the problems in Leeds Childrens Services are complex, I am fairly sure, that staff cuts are not going to help solve them. I am pragmatic enough to know that discussion needs to be had, about how to cut back public spending, I just don’t see why, the people who are, by definition, the most vulnerable, with the least power, have to pay for this.

I would rather have a discussion about whether or not, I can afford to pay prescription charges, than that.

Next time you are being told that a politician is protecting public services, by supporting the NHS- please ask yourself, what the cuts that they are proposing outside that, mean in your town, and who they actually affect.


One comment

  1. this is a very fair point, well made. wish there was a way to get this across into the public conciousness. difficult though to change a problem like that…

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