Andrew Lansley has hit the spot when he wants the NHS to provide a 7 day a week service and when he states the scandal of worse health care at weekends has to stop.
Our hospitals have state of the art technology that enable the detection and treatment of ill health. The scanning equipment and the theatre kit these days are a marvel to behold.
Recent evidence that deaths from heart failure have dropped dramatically demonstrate the major advances of medical science and the power of early detection through scans.
But developments in medical practise and behaviour still lag behind. Why is it that all these expensive pieces of medical kit lie idle at weekends? People are now waiting longer for tests and operations. So why not open up all of the hospitals on Saturdays and Sundays?
And why is it that still most doctors surgeries are not open in the evenings and weekends?
It is both a disgrace that people have to wait for treatment and an inefficiency not to maximise use of hospitals and doctors surgeries.
Many hospitals have now started to do routine work on Saturdays but not enough. So rather than leaving plant under utilised why not hire it out? Another sensible reform being considered by Lansley is to lift the arbitrary cap on hospitals private work. Rather than leaving expensive equipment underused a deal with, say Circle would bring in money for the NHS and they could be contracted to do work to clear waiting times so benefiting patients.
Or alternatively a new social enterprise set up by a group of nurses, consultants and doctors could take over the hospital at a weekend and run a full service with the profit going back into developing that hospital. It is a model crying out to be developed!
Recently I went for an eye check at John Radcliffe in Oxford. It was a Saturday so I did not need to take a day off work. But I was struck by how empty every where was. What a waste. I am also glad to say,needing to have some further tests , I discover they have a contract with the independent Nuffield hospital to undertake these so that I did not need to wait too long for that. As an NHS patient I was glad to get an early date; I wasn't worrying it was in a private hospital. What matters is what works, not who delivers it.
It is time we moved the debate on " privatisation" forward. We need a proper regulated system that maximises the value of the private and third sectors to the patients of the NHS. I regret that the position of many like Andy Burnham MP and those who support him put ideology above choice and the best interests of patients and citizens. It is a shame that the debate on the health bill cannot now move on to deciding how best to implement reform in the interests of the users of the NHS and explore how to best make use of the work of the other 3 sectors to advance medical care and the prevention of ill health.