'I wouldn't be striking!' - Tory MP and former NHS GP Liam Fox says he does not back nurses' industrial action

The MP says he has 'sympathy' for nurses, but striking is not the correct course of action

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FORMER Secretary of State for International Trade and NHS GP Dr Liam Fox has said he would not be going out on strike but says the NHS needs reform.

Speaking to GB News, he said: “I have sympathy for nurses, but not for going on strike. I think we need to look at some of the wider problems in the NHS and I think we need to look at what people would call ‘the flow problem’.

“It’s something that Steve Barclay has been more on top of than any of the other health secretaries I’ve known. And one of the problems we have is that we have so many people occupying acute beds in acute hospitals which are very expensive, very intensive for staff and they really don’t need to be there.

“We need to, in my view, go back to the concept of convalescent hospitals. I think we need to ensure that people are getting the appropriate care because if you’ve got people occupying those acute beds that don’t need to be there, it doesn’t matter how much money you pour into the system you’re not going to get the output that’s appropriate for that.

Liam Fox offered suggestions on how to improve the NHS.
Liam Fox offered suggestions on how to improve the NHS.

“So I would like to see us develop a system of convalescence and actually I would use it in two ways. There’s a lot of evidence that if you give older patients, for example, a high protein diet before they come into hospital then the recovery times for things like surgery are much quicker.

“So I think the answers for the NHS don’t come from spending vast amounts of money on management, I think it lies in the medicine. I think we need appropriate care for the appropriate patients. If we move to more of that convalescent care then it’s less staff intensive and it gives the patients the right level of care.”

Tens of thousands of nursing staff walked out in the biggest strike in the Royal College of Nursing’s 106-year history as the government failed to budge on their pay offer of 4% to 5%.

Nurses will take part in a further 12-hour walkout on Tuesday 20 December, before ambulance workers begin industrial action on Wednesday 21 December. Health service bosses have suggested all routine hospital care could be cancelled on the day of the ambulance strike due to the disruption.

Discussing the Department of International Trade, Mr Fox said he did not say it needs to be scrapped but rather that it needs upgrading as Whitehall has become “complacent”.

He said: “I didn't say it should be scrapped. What I really meant was it should be upgraded.

“And we need to have a proper economic department that takes the advantages post-Brexit. And much of Whitehall, almost all of Whitehall, in fact, is still shaped the same way as it was, before we left the European Union, as though nothing had happened. Because a lot of the Civil Service would like to think that nothing did happen.

“We set up the Department for International Trade to make Britain ready for the point that we left the European Union, but it needs to go further than that now, and I think that the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy - industrial strategy that we don't have anymore - is not really in a fit place for what's required of it.

Nurses are taking strike action as they fight for fair pay and better working conditions.
Nurses are taking strike action as they fight for fair pay and better working conditions.

“So I would like to see energy taken out of where I've always thought it was misplaced, given that it's involved with energy security and a whole range of environmental issues, and then create a business, trade and investment department and I would bring all of the functions of inward and outward investment into that department.

“And I would actually bring the digital parts of what's currently DCMS into that department to create a proper outward-looking business department, business investment and trade that was looking to maximise the opportunities for us post-Brexit because I think that the current strategy of Whitehall is too complacent.

“We were able to replicate the EU's trade agreements before we left the European Union. That's one of the main reasons why DIT was set up. Now we have to go further. And trade agreements are only a piece of paper.

“If no one actually wants to export, we need to encourage British companies to export more. We are well behind some of our main competitors on that.

“As we look at the Global Britain Commission, which I chair, if you're in countries in places like the Gulf, you're falling over French and German representatives trying to push their country's businesses and I don't think that we give sufficient help to our businesses.

“I don't think we give enough encouragement to our exporters. We've identified hundreds of thousands of companies who could be exporting but are not and that of course would generate a lot of wealth for the UK and a lot of our debates are about how we spend our money. There's very little debate about how we raise our money, how we create more wealth.

“Of course, a lot of trade has been massively interrupted by the pandemic, and it's quite difficult to read International Trade Statistics. There's a lot of problems still in the global economy that really result from supply chain disruption.

“Some of that is now settling. In maritime availability, that's now settling. Britain has actually been better at selling post-Brexit into the European Union than the European Union has been to us. Our exports to the European Union have been at an all-time high.

“But we do need to be looking to see how we encourage more British companies to export and then to find ways to help them do that every time a company exports. It makes the company more viable, makes it more profitable, generates more profit and more taxes, which of course help with the rest of our economic problems.”