WE’VE been told a million times now that Brexit will either make or break Boris Johnson in this most unpredictable of elections. As appears to be dawning on the Prime Minister, however, voters in England may be preparing to bite him on the bahookie over another big issue: the NHS.

With the British Medical Association already warning of an “unprecedented” emergency, Mr Johnson is apparently growing increasingly concerned that a winter crisis in hospitals could derail his election campaign. Not one to worry much about accusations of blatant electioneering (see yesterday’s cynical announcement about an end to the benefit freeze) he’s said to be considering a pre-election cash injection to ease NHS staff shortages and delays in the short term.

The problem for Mr Johnson, of course, is that while voters in Leave-voting constituencies may be willing to go along with his Make Britain Great Again bluster on Brexit, I suspect they will take a far harsher attitude to his party’s woeful record on the NHS and social care over the last decade, especially if they are health workers and/or have first-hand experience of the sometimes devastating reality of delays and shortages. No pre-election cash boost can even begin to touch the long-term structural – and ideological – under-investment of the last 10 years.

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We Scots should also be paying attention, of course, not least since Mr Johnson casually told the House of Commons last week that Scotland will “forfeit all right to manage” the NHS if services here do not improve, in a response that appeared to suggest devolution can simply be reversed whenever he and his party decides. Was this just some typically arrogant quip, or did the PM inadvertently let slip a major new Conservative policy? I hope both the media and voters in Scotland will pursue this matter vehemently in the weeks to come.

And that’s before we even get to what Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal will mean for the NHS throughout the UK. There has been a string of accusations from Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP that the NHS will be put “up for sale” following Brexit, accompanied by constant denials from the Tories. Both sides need to come clean with the public about what this actually means. The NHS is not going to be sold to shareholders like British Gas or British Telecom were in the 1980s, but it’s certainly possible that more and more services could be contracted out to private companies whose primary motive is profit. I’m struggling to think of instances where this approach has improved care and saved money. Can anyone enlighten me?

Even more worrying, of course, is what could happen if Donald Trump or indeed any other US president was allowed to get their hands on the NHS in post-Brexit trade deal negotiations. US health insurers routinely pay three or four times more for medicines than the NHS, and American drug companies and politicians have being trying to force the NHS to follow suit for years.

The UK would be in a subservient position in any trade negotiations and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that increased drug prices would have an immediate and catastrophic impact on already depleted health budgets. Indeed, such a rise in costs could eventually strangle the NHS completely.

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Only last week a Channel 4 documentary revealed how senior UK civil servants met with US trade representatives six times to discuss the matter. And Mr Trump clearly stated during his recent state visit that the NHS is very much on the table.

The Tories can deny all this till they are blue in the face but the facts speak for themselves. As does the last decade of cuts. I suspect even Conservative voters know, deep down, that the party can never be trusted look after the best interests of a public service that is in deep, deep trouble, yet still valued and defended by the electorate.

The stakes have never been higher for the NHS and, at the same time, there’s never been a better opportunity for opposition parties to spell out to voters the danger that lies ahead.

This so-called Brexit election could easily turn into the NHS election if the Tories are held to account for their under-funding and mismanagement of it over the last 10 years, and made to come clean about their disastrous Hard Brexit.

Mr Johnson and his band of ideologues are there for the taking on this issue.

When elections are over, we tend to look for the pivotal moments that turned the tide one way or another. Theresa May’s ill-timed floating of the “dementia tax” and Gordon Brown’s eye-wateringly awkward interaction with “bigoted woman” Gillian Duffy spring to mind. I hope we will soon add Boris Johnson’s NHS collapse.