Sunday, March 02, 2008

Save the NHS from 'free-market' dogma


Millions who exercise choice every day to find an electrician, book a holiday or buy a coffee seem incapable of understanding that unleashing competitive forces in health would mean improved productivity and better service.

writes Iain Martin in today’s Sunday Telegraph. What utter nonsense. Health care is a basic human right and the most efficient and fairest way for it to be provided is not through ‘competitive forces' which mean the rich get a better service and the poor often get none- but by a state run national insurance system. Isn’t it amazing that at the same time more and more Americans, fed up with the iniquities of their expensive, private insurance based system are demanding a free at the point of use national health care system, free market ideologues in Britain are demanding an end to a health service which is the envy of the world?

The problems which have affected the NHS in recent years (such as MRSA) are due to a deterioration of standards caused by the hiving off to the private sector of basic hospital functions, such as cleaning and catering. We don’t want more private sector involvement in health care- we want less. Much less.

Despite recent misguided reforms, the NHS is one of the few things in Britain that actually works. Unlike our privatised railway system which is the most expensive- and inefficient in the developed world. Remember, the very same people who are urging for ‘unleashing competitive forces in health’ were saying exactly the same thing about our railways fifteen years ago.

10 comments:

slapheads anonymous said...

Despite recent misguided reforms, the NHS is one of the few things in Britain that actually works. Unlike our privatised railway system which is the most expensive- and inefficient in the developed world.

Well, that's largely because they completely cocked that particular privatisation up - which certainly doesn't mean that privatisation per se is a bad thing.

For instance, are you seriously arguing that privatising British Telecom was a bad idea? You don't have an adult memory of what it was like pre-privatisation, do you?

Roland Hulme said...

The NHS is a dying beast.

Meanwhile, in the states, the corporations are squeezing the American worker for as much blood money as they can for health insurance.

There is a middle way. I'm just not sure any of the two polorised camps can ever work together to find an effective compromise.

Neil Clark said...

BT: Is that the consumer friendly company that charges you £5 extra if you pay by cheque?

slapheads anonymous said...

BT: Is that the consumer friendly company that charges you £5 extra if you pay by cheque?

I've no idea, since I've moved with the times - the last time I wrote a cheque was about ten years ago.

But the fact that you've responded with such a superficial example speaks volumes - as you know full well that if you researched the facts, you'll find that BT's service has massively improved and the prices have been even more sharply reduced since privatisation.

Remind us how long it took to get a phone in the 1970s? And what the alternative sources were if you didn't get satisfaction from BT?

For what it's worth, Roland's talking a fair bit of sense - I don't object to government regulation on principle, but I think it should be kept to an absolute minimum, and should never act as a substitute for healthy competition in a free market. (Which is why rail privatisation is a bad example, as the element of competition was so poorly thought through - most other privatisations have been far more successful).

Roland's also right that the NHS may well be on its last legs - and would almost certainly have collapsed some time ago if the government hadn't pumped in truly ludicrous amounts of money to keep it afloat - most of which, as we now know, went straight into the pockets of GPs with no noticeable improvement in the quality of service.

Belaruski said...

And who wrote the GP's contracts Slaphead? Deliberate mismanagement by the government does not mean public ownership is a bad thing. It means that this government does not like it, and quite frankly is deliberately running down the NHS by making it inefficient.

slapheads anonymous said...

It means that this government does not like it, and quite frankly is deliberately running down the NHS by making it inefficient.

The NHS is inherently inefficient, just as all state-run nationalised behemoths are inherently inefficient. I cannot believe that after so many decades and so many juicy examples that there's any serious dispute about this.

But when attempts are made to make them more efficient, knee-jerk left-wingers scream blue murder about how the vision of Beveridge is being betrayed.

(Never mind the fact that the present NHS in no way resembles what its creators ever intended)

For the record, my wife works in the NHS - she's slightly older than Neil, and has spent pretty much her entire adult life there. She used to believe in it with the fervour of the fierier brand of fundamentalist. And yet later this year she's jacking in her job and going private.

Just think about this for a second. This is someone who's spent nearly two decades in the system, who's had a generous pension provision and all the other perks of NHS employment, who's seriously thinking of taking a leap into the unknown and work in an environment that she has no experience of at all. What on earth can have pushed her to make such a drastic move?

The answer is all too simple: for all Neil's rhetoric, the NHS is not working, its staff are profoundly demoralised and they're leaving in droves. That's the reality on the ground, and no amount of poorly-researched propaganda will change it.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is this oddball obsession with telecoms?

Compared with stuff like, you know, WHETHER YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE IN GOOD HEALTH, who gives a damn how long or otherwise it takes to get a phone installed?

Some perspective is needed, please.

Neil Clark said...

"all state-run nationalised behemoths are inherently inefficient".
Really slapheads? Ever travelled on SNCF? Or Belgian Railways? Or Deutsche Bahn? Spend some time travelling round France, Belgium and Germany by train and then come back and try commuting on First Great Western.

Roland Hulme said...

True, Neil - but remember, British Rail was pretty pathetic even BEFORE it was privatised.

In France, railways run great. In capitalist New York, the railways run great.

It's just Britain that can't seem to organise a piss-up in a brewery.

Although privatising the railways seemed idiotic. Even in New York, public transport is run (for profit) by a publically owned company.

New York subway ticket? $2.

London underground? 4 quid (four times as much.)

Round Trip Ticket from New Brunswick to New York City (45mins) $21.

Return Ticket from Winchester to London (45 mins) 40 quid.

Rip Off Britain.

slapheads anonymous said...

What the hell is this oddball obsession with telecoms?

Can I assume that you're resorting to insults because you can't challenge the facts?

Compared with stuff like, you know, WHETHER YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE IN GOOD HEALTH, who gives a damn how long or otherwise it takes to get a phone installed?

It's hardly either/or, is it? In fact, I believe hospitals are quite reliant on telecommunications technology these days.

Anyway, I'm not sure what you're arguing - my point is that the NHS isn't functioning anything like as well as wide-eyed optimists like Neil Clark would have it, not that it's a bad thing per se.

As I said, in another point that you conveniently ignored, my wife used to be a fervent believer in the ethos of the NHS (still is, at base), and the fact that even she's decided that enough is enough should ring all sorts of alarm bells.