However, I'm not blind to its faults or the faults that have been forced onto it in recent times. Dave has today announced (again) that the Tories will protect all NHS spending.
Maybe the Tories just don't have a bloody clue about how much the NHS budget has increased recently. Have a look at the graph below, showing how the budget has increased (I nicked it from Civitas and added a figure for 2009 from the NHS site and a figure for 2010 from government projections).
During the decade from 1998/99 to 2008/09 the NHS budget grew to over two and half time its initial value. In real terms that's more than a doubling! Can anyone seriously say that we've got value for money for this massive increase? Have waiting times genuinely fallen by half? Are people living twice as long?
The problem here is that Labour have just dumped a vast chunk of cash into the NHS and expected results. They've introduced a myriad of managers to monitor what's happening with the new money and define meaningless metrics to demonstrate "Value for Money". Well, what happens if you give someone a pile of money and tell them to spend it, or they won't get it again next year, is that they will spend it on whatever they can. Not necessarily what's needed, or what's the best value but whatever they can spunk the cash away on.
I find it impossible to believe that the NHS is as efficient this year as they were with half the budget ten years ago. Protecting the budget is pointless, the Tories should be protecting the important services.
Is it be possible to cut the NHS budget by 25% and maintain 95% of the services? Can that £25Bn be better spent elsewhere?
The Tories should be talking to all their smart Management Consultancy friends about where cuts need to be made. The can then present a fully costed view of their proposals (We cut 10% here, 25% here, saving £XBn, of which £YBn is fed into ABC, etc etc etc). This sort of proper planning is seriously overdue in Government Spending and would actually bring a sensible picture of what effects cuts (or investment) will have. In my blog I've shown pretty much every figure that the Government has quoted in terms of what else it will buy. If we know that a 25% cut in the NHS leads to the loss of two hospitals in oversubscribed areas, but enables us to open 120 schools in deprived areas then we'll actually be able to have a debate over which is better for the country.
Of course, at the moment, the Tories are too busy playing politics to actually lead the country. Pity.