Almost half of British voters think NHS damaged by pandemic: Poll

Exclusive Redfield and Wilton Strategies poll underlines challenge facing the new health secretary and NHS chief.

Almost half of British voters think NHS damaged by pandemic: Poll

LONDON — Almost half of British voters believe the NHS has been damaged by the pandemic, according to a new poll which lays bare the scale of the task faced by the U.K. health secretary and new chief executive of NHS England. 

Forty-six percent of respondents to an exclusive survey for POLITICO by Redfield and Wilton Strategies said the NHS had been hurt by coronavirus, compared with 26 percent who thought it had been strengthened. However, 64 percent of people said their trust in the NHS had increased over the last 18 months, while just eight percent said they trusted the NHS less.

NHS hospitals, mental health services and community providers reported a shortage of nearly 84,000 full-time staff in February, and there are currently five million patients waiting to start routine treatment or operations in England. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who took up the post in June after the resignation of his predecessor, Matt Hancock, recently warned the backlog could swell to 13 million patients — a mammoth task for his own department and incoming NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard to tackle.

The survey also underscores the sensitive political challenge for the new health secretary and NHS chief, given voters’ concern and affection for the health service.

“Despite the significant disruption caused by coronavirus with hospitals caring for more than the 400,000 seriously ill patients, the NHS also continued providing vital non-COVID services alongside successfully rolling out the biggest and fastest vaccination program in health history, protecting millions of people against the virus and saving 60,000 lives,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director.

“There is of course a challenge ahead as we fully recover routine services but again thanks to the incredible efforts of staff, NHS services including cancer and mental health are back at pre pandemic levels and elective surgery is increasing too – with activity climbing to more than 90 percent.”

One immediate task will be to set the NHS budget for the second half of this financial year after a short-term budget was agreed because of the COVID crisis. NHS membership organizations warned “urgent clarity” was needed on funding for the rest of the year.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, a body which represents organizations that provide services for the NHS, said: “Sadly, it doesn’t come as a surprise that so many people believe the NHS has been damaged by the pandemic, as it tackles a huge treatment backlog and increasingly complex cases, all while staff are overstretched and exhausted.”

He added: “With a new NHS chief executive now in post, we also need urgent clarity on funding for health service for the second half of the year and for the longer term. This must be coupled with significant investment in recruitment and retention to address chronic workforce shortages.”

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: “We need a fully funded workforce plan to tackle the worryingly high levels of vacancies and ensure a sustainable supply of staff. We cannot achieve these priorities without sufficient funding for the NHS.”

A department of health and social care spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure the NHS has everything it needs to continue providing excellent care to the public, as we tackle the backlogs that have built up. We’re on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament, with more medical students in training than at any point in NHS history.”

“We gave the NHS a historic settlement in 2018, which will see its budget rise to £33.9 billion by 2023/24, and we have provided an extra £92 billion to support health and care services throughout the pandemic,” the spokesperson added.

In the same survey, fifty-seven percent of respondents said they trust scientists advising the government more than they trust ministers, while just 1 percent said they trusted the politicians more.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email for a complimentary trial.
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Why Central and Eastern Europe should be cheering on Nord Stream 2

Though the US has prioritized its relationship with Germany, the gas pipeline could still prove beneficial to the region.

Why Central and Eastern Europe should be cheering on Nord Stream 2

Dr. John R. Deni is a research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the author of “Coalition of the unWilling and unAble: European Realignment and the Future of American Geopolitics.”

By reaching an agreement on the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Washington appears to have favored its relationship with Berlin at the expense of its allies and partners to the east. Unsurprisingly, Central and Eastern European countries have been rattled by the move. Their concerns are valid. But paradoxically, the agreement could ultimately strengthen security in the region.

The agreement announced by U.S. and German negotiators last month marks the end of American efforts to block the pipeline. From Washington’s perspective, it amounts to a successful salvage operation: It’s likely Nord Stream 2 would have been completed despite American obstructionism. And by allowing the pipeline to be completed, the U.S. obtained some important commitments from Germany and took a major step toward restoring their relationship.

In exchange, Germany has committed to investing in alternative energy infrastructure in Ukraine, reimbursing the country for lost gas transit fees, helping Kyiv negotiate an extension of its gas transit contract with Moscow and pursuing sanctions against Russia if it uses oil and gas exports to Ukraine as political leverage.

Despite these commitments, Central and Eastern European allies are justifiably angered by the agreement. With good reason, they view Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical weapon rather than a “purely commercial” project, as Russia’s Vladimir Putin maintains. Poland and the Baltic countries remain convinced the pipeline will facilitate even more aggressive behavior from Russia. And Kyiv fears that lack of Russian gas transiting its territory en route to high-paying customers in Europe will embolden Moscow.

It’s easy to see why Central and Eastern European governments think the United States has favored its relationship with Germany over them. And to some degree, they aren’t far off the mark.

Over the last decade, Germany has become the lynchpin of American security and foreign policy in Europe. Politically and economically, Germany is first among equals in Europe, with greater soft power than France, the United Kingdom, Italy or any other European country.

Despite the pandemic-induced recession, Germany supersedes all its neighbors in terms of long-term economic growth prospects. Policy choices made over the last decade and the willingness of German businesses to embrace — more so than virtually all other countries in Europe — advanced information technology, roboticization and other aspects of the fourth industrial revolution have placed it on a trajectory of improving productivity over the next decade.

Of course, Germany’s military capabilities and capacity still pale in comparison to France and the U.K. But this is likely to change over time as Berlin continues to expand its defense budget, while Paris and London face comparatively more challenging fiscal circumstances.

More importantly, however, for Washington, the Nord Stream 2 agreement removes a major impediment to an ever-closer international security partnership with Berlin.

The great power competition unfolding between the U.S. on the one hand and Russia and China on the other is most likely to manifest itself in hybrid terms — involving political, diplomatic, economic, informational and military challenges, below the level of tanks crossing borders. That means that a close partnership between Washington and Berlin is likely to pay long-term dividends to the benefit of not only Germany and the U.S. but Central and Eastern Europe as well.

These countries, compelled by geography to navigate a path between Germany and Russia, need Germany firmly grounded in the West — and the Nord Stream 2 arrangement will help make sure it remains so. The alternative, Washington’s unilateral sanctions on German businesses, only strengthened the voices of those in Berlin who favor a more ambivalent German policy toward great power competition — one that pursues an equal distance between the U.S. and Russia.

Furthermore, Russia is likely to never make use of Nord Stream 2’s full capacity; climate change and long-term trends in energy consumption across Europe away from fossil fuels and toward renewables will make sure of that. Over time, declining Russian gas sales in Europe will eventually reduce Ukraine’s role as an energy transit country in any case.

The Nord Stream 2 agreement won’t end Berlin’s pursuit of a special relationship with Moscow. Its political elites remain convinced that European security can only be achieved with Russia, not against it, and that interdependence with Russia benefits the West. But the agreement nonetheless represents a win for Washington, insofar as it has garnered commitments from Berlin that otherwise wouldn’t have been made.

And ultimately, as long as it helps ensure the powerful country to their West remains firmly anchored there, Central and Eastern European countries will also benefit from this agreement.

Source : Politico EU More   

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