Philip Whiteley's Blog

January 19, 2011

NHS is broke, but it doesn’t need a restructure

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 4:25 pm

Watching the political debates between the Labour and Conservative Parties about the National Health Service is like watching an unhappy couple argue over the parenting of a dysfunctional child. The onlookers are stupefied with disbelief that the squabbling duo are referring to the same individual that we can see. Labour insist that this gauky teenager with poor personal hygiene is the most beautiful, creative human being ever to have lived, while Tories say that he needs to be subjected to a personal make-over and put on a reality TV show.

Both sides have short memories. Conservative plans for a fundamental restructure are made as though this creaking institution had not been subjected to almost relentless reorganisation since the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act (until which point, the NHS was actually a well-run organisation). Labour’s 13 years in office saw the introduction of Primary Care Trusts and ambitious plans for ‘health outcomes’ of the nation. These followed from discussions in the left in earlier decades that the NHS should move from being a ‘sickness’ service to being one of preventative health. In practice, this meant billions spent on nannying and interfering in people’s lives, while hospitals deteriorated, standards of nursing care declined, MRSA and dirt became serious problems, and we witnessed the appalling deaths of patients due to neglect, in Stafford and Maidstone hospitals (and I am convinced elsewhere as well). See Julie Bailey’s excellent but shocking website: www.curethenhs.co.uk

Both political parties are wrong. The NHS is broke, but it does not need a restructure. It needs to get back to its knitting. It needs politicians with the courage and humility to say that the past 20 years of experiment, restructure, gimmick, excessive management, pointless targets, nannying and over-ambition have been a mistake. It should revert to being a clean, well-run GP and hospital service with modest but achievable ambitions to meet health needs as they are presented. Labour’s efforts to use the NHS for social engineering, and the Conservatives’ plans to try to mimick the private sector, both represent political experiments in which the ordinary patient has suffered.

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