I am thoroughly tired of politicians all vying with each other to chuck more money at the health service, when what they really need todo is to get inside it and look for solutions there. So here are my own ideas (and I've spent most of my life working in the health service):
1. Missed appointments. Everyone should be asked to pay a reasonable registration fee (say £10. Maybe less for a whole family) to register with a GP. If they missed two appointments, either with their own doctor or a hospital, they would have to re-register (and pay again).
2. Prescription charges. I know from visiting elderly patients in their own homes that many hoard their drugs when they are free. I have seen cupboards full of unused drugs and dressings, destined never to be used, because after all, they were free, so the patient had nothing to lose. The majority of patients are entitled to free prescriptions, so this is a huge problem. If all those entitled to free prescriptions had to pay just a token fee - say £1 - per prescription, then people might think twice before reordering their medicines, and the NHS drug bill would be vastly reduced.
3. If we have to have graduate nurses (it costs £20,000 to train a nurse, whereas time was when nurses earned their passage from the beginning of their training), then at least lets bring back the wonderful State Enrolled Nurses. These, as before, could be trained on the wards as they worked, and would go on to form a valuable part of the ward team. At a time when as much as £1800 a day has been paid for an agency nurse, something needs to be done. Ed Milliband has promised an extra 20,000 nurses if his party get in next year. Yeah, right, Ed. And how exactly to you propose to raise the money?
None of these ideas would be popular, but then cuts in other services and tax increases aren't exactly welcome, either. And we have to do something...don't we?