In 2010, the billboards promised us that the Tories would cut the deficit and not the NHS. Now, less than a year out from the General election, the NHS is once again the main talking point.
Should we privatise the service? Should we have pay as you go appointments with GPs, should we make cuts to A and E, should we close more hospitals, should we name and shame GPs that fail to spot cancer, should we send fat people to fat club, and most recently in the latest of crazy ideas, to cut benefits of those who have been signed off work due to mental illness.
I used to work in politics - I empathise with decision making vs vote winning, but to me it seems like the current leaders have lost the plot.
Closing hospitals, charging for appointments and reducing spaces in A and E is going to mean waiting times will increase, meaning conditions spiral and treatment will become more expense. The consequences of this may mean people having to take time out of work, which is ironically expensive on the economy.
A case in point is the subject I regularly refer to, which current leadership still have not got a grasp on just how widespread the issue is.
1 in 4 people suffer with a mental illness, and yet treatment is an enormous challenge to access. Waiting times for treatment have no maximum, which means in some areas people can be waiting even up to 2 years before they see a specialist.
In some cases (like my own) services are so oversubscribed, you can wait for an assessment before being turned away, because you don't fulfil the criteria, where clinical needs are placed before the mental needs - capacity is a significant issue.
I will return to this point.
Quality of services vary dramatically depending on the postcode and in some counties a specialist service may not exist, thus referrals are having to be made outside your county.
And as we have seen, there are cuts being made on an area of the NHS which was already at capacity, and needed strengthening not reducing.
Due to current strains on mental health services patients are waiting long periods of time for treatment; during this time their conditions can deteriorate, lives can fall apart and in tragic cases sufferers give up.
Research indicates that early intervention is not only cost effective but life saving and can lead to full recovery.
Referring to eating disorders (as I know this area particularly well), by the time treatment becomes possible sufferers often require inpatient treatment and are too ill to engage in psychological therapies, which would have been suitable when they first presented. Sufferers can also have developed further physical complications by this point, such as osteoporosis, organ and heart complications which may require long term medicating. Furthermore, because of the pressure on inpatient resources, sufferers can be discharged once they are past the critical point, but well before they are recovered because someone else needs their bed.
Inpatient treatment is a costly way of treating, and demonstrates that it is lifesaving not life changing.
And returning to a previous point in stretches on A and E resources - a significant drain on this area are actually from patients with mental health issues, not knowing where to be signposted, or not being able to access treatment anywhere else.
A and E has become a sanctuary of desperation for many mentally ill patients, which could be eliminated if the infrastructure was in place elsewhere in the NHS.
The alarming reality is, a patient will take an overdose if it means that they will get an emergency psychiatric referral to provide them with the help they need.
Sometimes the help arrives too late. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.
The Government needs to wake up to the reality that a quarter of the population will at some point suffer with a mental health problem and finance our health service properly to respond to this.
I recently made a film with Fixers UK to raise awareness on this important issue.
Please share the film and retweet using the hashtag #endthewait