What did the NHS ever achieve?

22 Mar 2012 05:46

I’ve been reading with dismay about the Health and Social Care Bill which will destroy the little remaining of the NHS. It happens that I’m studying Allyson Pollock’s book “NHS plc” at the moment and on page 215 of the hard-back edition she states: “It is easy to lose sight of the benefits the NHS secured: integrated hospital services with minimal internal administrative costs; district general hospitals, bringing specialist services for all but the rarest conditions within reach of every family; the evolution of general practice to offer 24-hour primary care by doctors trained for the job, and continuity of care for everyone; robust structures for data collection and planning in order to match reources to needs; the education and training of medical staff; and the gradual equalisation of service provision across the country, while sstill allowing for experimentation and innovation”.

It is also worth noting what she writes a little earlier: “The high-profile private sector failures of the railways, government information technology systems, the Benefits Office, the Passport Office, the Channel Tunnel and long-term care all illustrate the difficulties governments will face when confronted by the monopoly power of private suppliers of health services”.

It is well worth remembering what the NHS did in fact bring to the public. We now have the prospect of insurance companies’ obstructionism, a Financial Services Authority that is disinterested and toothless in protecting patient-interests, and privatised services where clinicians are gagged from speaking out against malpractice because it is against the shareholders’ financial interests. This is what the Conservatives and Labourites have jointly brought in synergy with the obstructionism and self-interest of unions and physicians. The government has the responsibility for protecting the public’s interests but has signally failed to do so. Where is the Royal College of Public Medicine that protects the public’s interests? No reputable scientist or researcher can honestly say that privatisation increases health-effectiveness, so why are we seeking to replicate America’s profound and evident failure? It boggles my mind.

 

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