Saturday, September 02, 2006

Time for the truth about the NHS

An interesting story in the Daily Telegraph today.

A poll commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research has found that the public expects too much from the NHS.

Frankly, they could have saved their money. I could have told them that for nothing.

The truth is, this all-encompassing 'cradle-to-grave' treatment expected by the public cannot be provided out of general taxation. The demands are too great to be borne by a publicly funded health service.

Think about it. Hardly a month goes by without legal action being commenced against some Primary Care Trust for refusing to provide some wonder drug or other. We have just had the Herceptin wars. Then there are all the policy acrobatics being performed by trusts as they try to decide how to spend their limited resources, excluding certain groups from treatment for the most fatuous reasons.

But whose fault is it that we expect heaven and earth from the NHS? Is it not that of the politicians, who come to us every five years promising a 'world class health service'? And in-between election years, the Government spends its time cooking up one initiative or the other, all designed to deceive the electorate that things are indeed getting better. In 2002, the national insurance contributions rate was increased by Gordon Brown. This was to pay for the NHS, we were told. Having forked out the money, is it not reasonable to wonder why things have not improved? Where has all the money gone?

The Opposition is no better. Rather than tell us that our expectations are unreasonable, they perpetuate the deceit by promising what they cannot deliver. This is why David Cameron's decision in January 2006 to abandon the Patient's Passport is such a great shame. That policy was the first step in admitting that there are limits to the NHS. It could have been the starting point in determining what the NHS can reasonably be expected to deliver. He has also ruled out any plans to offer tax relief on medical insurance premiums. Why the timidity? Perhaps it was the fear that Labour would have seized the chance to paint the Conservatives as wanting to destroy the NHS. That charge is enough to paralyse any politician. It is, however, a dishonest charge, and as long as it remains a tool of political warfare, the NHS will stay as it is. This benefits nobody, not least the longsuffering patients.

Until politicians start being honest about the true state of the NHS, we will continue to be heavily disappointed in our expectations.
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Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

Fortunately, my husband gets private health care through work for us, else I would be worried. We have used it and it is great to know you can see a consultant pretty quickly. Saying that, the NHS were great when my son needed to go to Great Ormond Street Hospital, you can't beat the care they give our young people.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Bel said...

I use a mixture of private health care and the NHS. There are fine aspects in both. I really believe that some form of medical insurance and/or top-up is the way forward. The economic reality bears this out. But who will be brave enough to tell the public?

7:37 PM  

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