Why it’s time for Rishi Sunak to drop the c-bomb when it comes to the NHS

12 January 2023, 10:12 | Updated: 12 January 2023, 10:13

Andy Coulson gives his LBC Views on the NHS crisis
Andy Coulson gives his LBC Views on the NHS crisis. Picture: LBC
Andy Coulson

By Andy Coulson

Crisis is a word used by politicians only if it’s crystal clear that someone else is to blame for it. Or maybe a natural disaster. Even in war, it’ll only be deployed if the bad guy is very clearly identified.

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NEVER will you see it leave a leader’s lips if there is even a scintilla of a chance that the finger of blame could be pointed in their direction.

That’s why our PM studiously walked around the TV trap that was left for him by Laura Kuenssberg in their recent interview. The instinctive aversion to admitting what anyone working in or reliant on the NHS can see, kicked in.

Ask any nurse, paramedic or doctor if the NHS is in crisis. Or inquire of any MP what constituents are telling them about their local hospitals on the doorsteps or in their post bags. The answer will be the same.

Crisis What Crisis? Is on Global Player and you can listen here.

I’ve seen more than my fair share of crises, some self-inflicted. From those experiences and from the compelling stories of my podcast guests, the single, simple lesson that resonates is that until you accept and embrace you’re in one, you can’t begin to overcome it.

In my final meeting in No10 12 years ago, I sat with Oliver Letwin and then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to discuss how we might position the NHS ‘problem’. Even then, in the first year of the coalition government, it was clear to me that using the word ‘crisis’ was the only way forward. It was undeniable.

It was also, I argued, a truth that once carefully deployed would allow us to get on with reform (and there were some good ideas) from a platform of realism and pragmatism. And I felt strongly that if reform were finally to come, then a coalition might just be the way to do it after years of tribal failure.

My suggestion was met with a silence best described as eerie. I left No10 not long after disappointed that I hadn’t made a meaningful final mark on the most difficult of comms challenges. No10 is still in the same hole of denial.

It’s now time for Rishi to drop the c-bomb. It’s the truth, and by admitting it he will be able to make the case for the exceptional status of our doctors and nurses. And then he can get the pay deal done without fear of unpicking his entire industrial relations strategy.

Andy Coulson is founder of www.coulsonpartners.com and host of the www.crisiswhatcrisis.com podcast