Are politicians playing politics with the NHS?

The publication of the Keogh review investigating standards of care in NHS trusts has sparked a fierce political row between the Coalition and Labour. The report, commissioned by David Cameron in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal at the beginning of this year, has led to the introduction of special measures in 11 trusts that were found to have especially poor standards of care.

Labour and the Government have been quick to blame each other for the failings, with both sides eager to avoid the impression that the NHS isn’t safe in their hands taking hold. But in reality, it’s likely that both parties will suffer from this debate, as the public has a low tolerance when they believe that the NHS is being used as a political football. This makes criticism of the NHS – even its “bureaucrats” – tough for politicians.

The difficulty for both Labour and the Tories, however, is that at the same time the public will make a decision on who they trust more with the health service, so neither can afford to sit back and allow accusations go unchallenged. Instead, both sides are trying to position themselves as on the side of patients, in the hope that this will give them space to criticise the institution itself without challenging the core values that underlie it.

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