In the weeks leading up to the last General Election it is said that one of the most decisive interventions which shaped the out-come was the pledge by George Osbourne to plug the funding gap in the NHS.
In the Guardian on 10 April 2015, Osborne wrote:
"We back the NHS’s plan, but there’s no point having a plan without the funding to deliver it, so today we commit to deliver what the NHS needs. The Five Year Forward View sets out a projected gap between costs and resources of up to £30bn by the year 2020-21. As the plan says, the majority of this gap, £22bn, can be made up through efficiency and reform, as well as improvements in public health and prevention that will keep people healthier for longer. The NHS will do its part, and we will do ours. So I can confirm that in the Conservative manifesto next week we will commit to a minimum real-terms increase in NHS funding of £8bn in the next five years."
But the problem with this equation is that the NHS has never made savings of 2-3% ever it its entire history. However worthy or challenging this assumption may be, it is neither realistic nor honest.
These estimates of the money gap were made after the most expensive and wasteful "top-down" reorganisation of the NHS (which in itself was a broken promise from the 2010 election campaign).
So when Cameron, Osborne, Hunt and others bang on about to "fully funding the NHS budget gap" they know that the promised £8bn is a long way short of what is actually needed.
Many NHS Trusts are now facing crippling deficits leading to staff shortages on wards and in clinical departments - and the employment of expensive agency staff.
What will this mean over the next five years?
It is not unreasonable to believe that over the life of this parliament the government will turn around and say "We gave you all the money you asked for and you still could not make it work ... so we will hand over even more of the NHS to private companies"
And what does it mean in Reading today?
Here is one experience: my own.
I went to see my GP in late September this year about an on-going health issue who immediately made a referral for me to see a consultant.
On 1st October I rang the NHS (the on-line e-Referral Service was not working) to indicate that I wanted to be seen at the Royal Berks Hospital (which is at the end of my street). I was told I would be sent a date "within two weeks".
On 29 October I got my letter (2 weeks later than promised) to say I had been allocated an appointment in the middle of February 2016.
By my calculation my appointment will be 24 weeks after my referral. The NHS Constitution says we have "a right to start non-emergency consultant led treatment within 18 weeks from referral - or where cancer is suspected, within 2 weeks of urgent referral".
When I enquired about this apparent breach of the standards set out in NHS Constitution, I was told "staff shortages".
In the meanwhile deficits across the NHS continue to spiral out of control - the latest reports were only published after the recent Conservative Party conference.
But with a Secretary of State who has co-authored a book calling for the the NHS to be dismantled, this seems to be only heading one way.
Let's hope this winter's weather is not too harsh ...