Could the NHS decide the General Election?

The last British General Election could be summed up by an American President's catchphrase. It was Bill Clinton who used to say "It's the economy, stupid" but this time round things might be different.

A Comres poll for ITV News found voters believe that managing the NHS should be the biggest priority for the government right now, reflecting a winter that left the service struggling to cope.Among further findings:

  • 37% of adults told us getting an appointment with a GP will be the NHS issue most on their minds when deciding who to vote for

  • 31% are more concerned by waiting times at A&E

  • 29% are most concerned by the number of nurses in the NHS

We visited the Crown Street Surgery in Swinton, Yorkshire, where long suffering patients have faced four week waits for non-emergency appointments.

Teacher Michelle Davey told us she found it impossible to get an appointment outside school hours.

But she doesn't believe in the promises from both main parties of either more GP's or evening appointment times. She's voted Green in the past and is weighing up her options this time round.

"The Tories couldn't really redeem themselves for me now" she told us.

"But I don't see a lot from Labour that says they could salvage the NHS in a credible way."

In Manchester, Ron Bent who works in advertising, feels equally disillusioned. He needed the emergency services for the first time last winter when he broke his back in a bike accident near his home.

The North West Ambulance service had 70 outstanding calls that night -he told us the 90 minutes he spent lying on an icy road drained his faith in politicians ability to put things right.

"They spend most of the time blaming the previous government for everything they've got to rectify" he said. "But they never seem to get any further in making the NHS what it should be."

Yet his local trust - the North Manchester General Hospital - is now succeeding in meeting its A&E waiting time target of seeing 95% of patients within 4 hours.

They've managed to do what many other hospitals haven't by bringing GP's and pharmacists on site to work alongside emergency medics.

Medical Director Jimmy Stuart says although the system can be frustrating, it does deliver.

"Compared to when I first became a doctor in 1985 its immeasurably better; compared to overseas it's better" he said. "We've got one of the best accident and emergency services in the world".

The NHS is an institution we all rely on - the party best able to persuade us it can be trusted with it might just pull ahead in the tightest of races.