Stephanie Smith: ‘Our NHS’ deserves more than cynicism - and so do we

The Vote Leave campaign TV advert claimed it was telling two very different stories of the NHS and its future, In and Out.
The Vote Leave campaign TV advert claimed it was telling two very different stories of the NHS and its future, In and Out.
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Monday evening just gone, back from work and peering doubtfully into the fridge for something to eat while watching The One Show.

Like many working parents, I was a captive audience when Vote Leave‘s TV advert was broadcast this week. A two-minute film entitled Which NHS will you vote for?, it features a split screen simultaneously showing two different scenarios of NHS treatment experienced by an elderly woman who arrives at A&E, weak and coughing, accompanied by a younger woman, possibly her daughter.

The left side of the screen has the caption ‘Inside the EU’; the right side, ‘Outside the EU’. And what contrasting tales of front line NHS care they tell.

On the left, ‘Inside the EU’, the frail old lady and her daughter arrive looking anxious at the reception desk of a crowded A&E department and join a queue of other anxious looking people. The waiting area is packed with a diverse range of despondent, sick people. Meanwhile, on the right, ‘Outside the EU’, the frail old lady sails serenely through reception to the waiting area, which isn’t busy at all – just three people, including a nice middle-aged couple in matching orange tops. Over at the ‘Inside’ waiting room, inexplicably, a woman has a bandage round her head. ‘Outside the EU’, another woman calmly reads a newspaper.

‘Inside the EU’, there’s just one nurse looking unhappy and stressed as she wades through paperwork. ‘Outside the EU’, there are two nurses discussing care, empowered, on the phone, getting it sorted. The frail old woman is seen quickly, her x-rays, diagnosis and treatment carried out instantly, like Holby City, but without the affairs and roof-top sieges.

Meanwhile, back ‘Inside the EU’, the frail old woman is still waiting. Then comes the message: “Our NHS is at breaking point. Every week we spend £350 million a week to be part of the EU.” That could build one new hospital every week or be spent on doctors and nurses. Apparently.

So far, campaigns from both sides of the Brexit debate have been characterised mainly by dodgy maths, outlandish claims and warnings of destruction, doom … and now death.

As the parent of a child who was treated for cancer by the NHS, and whose successful care was world class – and indeed the result of international trials and collaborations – I object to having “our NHS” used to inspire fear for the future in this way. Inside or outside, the NHS deserves more than this cynical lack of insight, concern and respect. So do voters.

Oh, and by the way, real nurses don’t wear nail polish on duty.

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