This is an editorial from the Oxford Times politics reporter Ed Halford.

'Our NHS is at breaking point’ is a phrase you commonly hear politicians rattle out on television when attacking the government.

Staff are demoralised, overworked and the applause we all gave nurses and doctors during the pandemic has come to nothing.

Instead, what was initially a nice gesture to show appreciation to our brave pandemic heroes has not translated into better working conditions or pay which takes account of the inflationary whirlwind we are all experiencing.
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Oxford Mail: John Radcliffe HospitalJohn Radcliffe Hospital (Image: Newsquest)

The glaringly obvious barrier in the way of improvements in A&E waiting times is politicians’ unwillingness to be bold and to introduce daring reforms to our cherished health service.

No, this does not mean the wholesale privatisation of the health service, but we cannot let fears about a US style health service prevent utilising private companies when they will more efficiently solve an issue.

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Former prime minister Tony Blair recognised that bringing on board private healthcare providers was worth it if they led to an improvement in the quality of the care delivered.

Simply turning our backs on privatisation due to a feeling of uneasiness will not help thousands who are paying the price for the government’s failure to effectively address NHS backlogs.

Oxford Mail: Junior doctors on strikeJunior doctors on strike (Image: Oxford Mail)

Oxford MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran have told The Oxford Times the NHS is on its knees.

Ms Moran said our much loved institution is past breaking point and is “splitting at the seams”.

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The Tories have pledged to deliver investment of £34 billion between 2018/19 and 2023/2024 which translates into £20.5 billion in real terms.

The last time our NHS saw such an investment boost was during the Blair years and yet we still see similar problems which have not been sorted by tremendous injections of investment.

Oxford Mail: John Radcliffe A&E departmentJohn Radcliffe A&E department

This suggests that bringing down waiting times and backlogs is not as simple as throwing money at the problems.

Radical reform is required, and politicians are needed who translate catchy sound bites into meaningful change.

The NHS has weathered the Covid-19 storm so the latest investment does have to be considered in light of the unprecedented situation our country faced.

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However, before politicians make promises they cannot keep, more time should be spent speaking to doctors and nurses who are facing the consequences of longer waiting times every day.

Their relentless hard work and determination to provide quality care, despite the staff shortages, is not given enough applause.

But as patients start to worry about longer waiting times in hospitals across Oxfordshire, the call for wide ranging and ambitious reform is only going to get louder.

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Politicians can continue ducking uneasy questions about how we set about reforming the NHS but the longer we put off this long overdue conversation, the more devastating the consequences will be for patients.

MPs across Oxfordshire should put party differences aside and start talking about their ideas for reforming the NHS – and not using the NHS as a political football.

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About the author 

To sign up to Ed's weekly Politics newsletter, click here:

Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

Ed’s weekly politics newsletter is released every Saturday morning.