COMMENT: Given proper resources and support, NHS staff can do what they're best at

So what seemed like an interminable election campaign period is over at last - time now for government. It is not often that management costs in primary care trusts are the subject of heated discussion by the water cooler - unless, that is, you are a manager in a PCT. Nor is it every week that National Audit Office reports are a key topic in the supermarket queue.

But so it was in the run-up to polling day as, unsurprisingly, the NHS took top spot in the election campaign, injecting some much-needed pace into its final days.

Not everyone's work is subject to as much media scrutiny and public debate as that of the NHS manager - even if it is only every four years.

There are those, of course, who spend all their time being interested in NHS management, and maybe now is the right moment for them to tell the politicians what it is they expect from the next government.

So here, in the perhaps forlorn hope that someone is listening, is HSJ's post-election wish-list:

The NHS would like to see some honesty and humility from its political masters now that the soundbites carry slightly less weight.

Health statistics have been deployed in numerous party political arguments in the past few weeks - now it is time to concentrate on healthcare.

Freedom from political interference may be an impossibility, but an arm's length approach to allow managers and staff to get on with their jobs is desirable.

Health service staff will continue to strive to deliver the best-possible care for patients according to circumstances, funding and the physical environment.

But more staff and equipment would enable that care to be better still. Without improved resources, the increasing demands being put on the service cannot be met, leading to a wider perception among the general public that the NHS is failing. In the vicious cycle that has become familiar, the media portrayal of the failing NHS will contribute to a deterioration in the morale of staff. Only by putting more money into the NHS can it become the 'world-class service' people expect it to be.

As health service staff will be putting the needs of patients and their families first, it is vital that ministers do likewise. Spurious targets and political demands should not be prioritised above clinical need. The end of the waiting-list initiative is welcome, but while all those working in the service want to see shorter waiting times, the need to reduce them should not distort local priorities. No amount of number crunching can alter the capacity of the NHS to treat patients - only more resources can do that.

Staff applaud the drive for continuous improvement in health services and the importance of being able to share information about good practice - but this can only be achieved by giving staff the time and the opportunity to engage in learning and career development.

National incentives may have the potential to improve the care the NHS delivers, but that has yet to be proved. What has been demonstrated is that incentives for the staff who deliver care can improve recruitment and retention. Better pay and conditions, flexible working and a pleasant working environment will ensure that the health service can attract the staff it needs.

The NHS needs the same openness and transparency from the Department of Health and the NHS Executive that they demand of the service. The first priority must be to have clarity on the role of the private sector in the provision of publicly funded services and guarantees on the future employment of staff in services provided in partnership with the private sector.

In short, give those working in the NHS the support and the resources that have been repeatedly pledged on every soap box and television interview and allow them to do their jobs properly.