Today with Phil Collins, the Deputy Editor of The Times. Always a fun thing to do and not just because we were in a splendid Italian restaurant Quirinale in Westminster. Phil is a great wordsmith and brilliant purveyor of anecdote and debunker of political posturing.
As it happens he had a trenchant Op Ed in the Times this morning, " the guardian angels of the NHS are killing it". A useful reminder that some organisations so loudly supporting the NHS were once violently opposed to it. I talk, of course of the BMA who voted by 86 % against the creation of the NHS in 1945. As Phil writes,
" Its worth noting that the NHS is full to bursting with business people already. They work for themselves and buy and sell their practices on the open market. We know them as GPs ".
The saddest aspect of the current row about the Bill is how it distracts from the real challenges the NHS faces. These are;
#How do we extend real choice to citizens and patients?
# How do we empower patients to manage health and care; especially for the 18milliopn people with long term conditions?
# How do radically boost resources to prevent ill health?
#How do we move resources from hospitals to the community ?
And why is this debate being conducted by people who believe that the NHS belongs to the staff who work in it rather than the citizens who pay for it ?
To quote Phil again,
" It is ignorant to suggest that increasing competition or allowing patients more choice is the beginning of the end of the NHS ".
There are thousands of strong charities and social enterprises gagging top play a bigger role. Hospices who want to take people from expensive hospital beds and provide better care for people at the end of their lives. Bodies like Diabetes UK or Macmillan Cancer Care or Asthma UK and Age UK who are gagging to play a bigger role in providing care and support where it is needed most - in the community or at home. And what are we doing. Expanding their role? Encouraging them? No. We are cutting their funding and abusing them by inaccurate attacks on " marketisation ".
The core principle of a universal service free at the point of use if not being challenged.
As I pointed out in my report, the true defenders of a free universal service are those arguing for reform and for a bigger role for alternative providers because the financial challenge is such that, unless tackled now, in a decade we will be forced to debate an insurance based system as the current arrangements begin to collapse. That is the real danger we face, not allowing many more independent providers of health services. Many , like the third sector charities and social enterprises who offer better value for money and a more client based service.
And now for a healthy weekend walking the Hound. Good job she likes the snow!