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Politicians ‘lack will’ to tackle challenges faced by NHS

Survey shows eight out of ten MPs feel changes to the NHS are essential

Mark Gould

Monday, 31 March 2014

Almost seven out of 10 MPs believe there is insufficient political will to meet the challenges facing the NHS, according to a new poll. Published on the eve of the reformed NHS’s first anniversary, the survey of a cross-section of 100 MPs found that 48 per cent of them fear a free NHS may be unsustainable if challenges facing the service are not tackled.

Some 93 per cent said they would support changes to their local NHS services if there was evidence that the changes would improve patient care and 69 per cent said they would support changes if there was public support for plans drawn up by clinicians.

The survey – conducted for the NHS Confederation by parliamentary and political intelligence service Dods – also reveals 81 per cent of MPs believe the NHS in their constituency needs to change to meet the needs of patients in the future.

Yet, 65 per cent say there is insufficient political will to permit change, and one in four say they would not back changes to their local NHS if their constituents are opposed.

Dr Ian Wilson, the Chairman of the BMA’s Representative Body, said: "It is unbelievable that while 8 out of 10 politicians agree change is essential, almost seven out of 10 say there is insufficient political will to allow this to happen.

"The reality is that the NHS is under intense pressure from a combination of rising patient demand and declining funding. Politicians must confront these challenges head on in order to ensure we can continue to deliver a high standard of care while remaining free at the point of use.”

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "These results reveal there is cross-party consensus about the need to make changes to the NHS and that there are doubts about whether there is the political will to do so.

"This comes on the back of our member survey published last week, that showed significant backing for change from NHS senior leaders, who voiced doubts that change will be achieved in the current environment.

"The resounding message from this survey is clear – we need an open and honest apolitical conversation between the public, patients, politicians and those delivering healthcare across our communities, about the future challenges facing the NHS.

"We must then all support each other to drive forward the changes needed to ensure we can deliver a 21st century NHS where we have the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

"Our 2015 Challenge seeks to do just this – supporting politicians with the evidence and seeking to engage the public. To safeguard an NHS free at the point of need, we all have a responsibility to meet the challenges facing our health and care system head-on – with everyone playing a part.”

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