The great NHS debate has the PM got it wrong again?

The Good Life Letter 

6th February  2011

  • Even the PM's family thinks he's got it all wrong
  • How should you deal with a revolting GP and cash hungry pharmaceutical giants?
  • The great NHS debate where do you stand?

It's not unusual to get a bit of criticism from your family is it?

In fact I happen to think it's a sign of a healthy relationship when proper open discussion and debate happens around the dinner table.

Admittedly, I know my place!

But I did have a bit of a chuckle this week when I was leafing through the Guardian and saw a story about David Cameron getting short shrift from his brother-in-law who happens to be a doctor.

It seems that our illustrious PM is getting more than a few political points scored against him over his proposed health reforms; it looks like the family are revolting as well.

According to the article, Dr. Brookes who is married to Mr. Cameron's sister, has gone on record as saying that too much power is being given to GP's.

The background to this is that the Government want to change the administration of hospitals away from the control of Primary Care Trusts, and give the responsibility of medical, procedural and fiscal control to the GP's who are in the hospital's catchment.

Am I alone in thinking that I want my GP to be a doctor and not a part-time management accountant?
It seems not.

The GP's and others are revolting

A survey by the Royal College of General practitioners revealed that over half of the respondents said they were concerned that the changes would not improve care for patients.

Their concerns are about the pace of change, the risk that the service will become fragmented and the impact that competition may have.

Just think about that - why do we need competition in our health service? How will they compete?

If you have the choice of two hospitals to have your hip replaced, receive chemotherapy or undergo brain surgery how will you decide? Price?

Are we going to be faced with a series of surgeons sucking their teeth and emitting a low whistle as they explain "It's not your parts mate, it's the labour!"

I don't think I want my health being in the hands of the lowest bidder, I demand that I receive the best care I can get.

I bet you competition won't be based on patient experience will it?

A spokesman for Unite (The Health Services Union) agrees with me stating that patient's would become consumers and that ultimately hospital estates would become privatised.

The effect of this would be a system which treated NHS patients to a lower standard of care and a much longer wait as private patients were prioritised due to the level of income available from them.

Now you might expect that the union might be highly critical of changes imposed by a Tory administration on principle, however, critics from Mr. Cameron's own side are getting vocal, too.

A coalition MP, Lib Dem Andrew George said "most of the informed and authoritative commentators on this all agree this might result in a race to the bottom" - hardly reassuring is it.

But what is happening within the service? Why is it not possible to manage our hospitals in an effective way?
Well it would appear on average that we aren't any more sickly than we were, we don't need anymore operations than we did but it's still our fault because we are living longer.

Britain's population is aging and we aren't shuffling off our perches as quickly as we used to. There are just more of us about needing to access our GP's, specialists and hospitals than we did before.  And that costs money.

The large pharmaceutical and equipment companies are raking in huge profits from the NHS, and almost act as a price fixing cartel.

Highly effective drugs which are now off patent are being replaced by new compounds that cost a whole lot more, despite the older versions still being available.

And yes, I know that Pfizer has just shut down a research plant in Kent... in fact the one which discovered Viagra. However, this centre was researching drugs for allergy and respiratory conditions and the reason for closing it was given as a need to cut back on their research budget.

What they are actually saying is that the amount of money they can make from curing or controlling asthma and hay fever isn't enough to keep their interest. Don't get carried away with thinking that these companies are at the leading edge of research trying to help us; it's all about hard CASH.

Pharmaceutical PR activists are lobbying health professionals and governments to get them to stock up on the latest anti viral products, mass health prophylactics or flu serums.

Look at the way these companies have hijacked the health debate by suggesting that EVERYONE should be taking statins once they reach the age of 40. Bear in mind that these are drugs which have since been linked to severe liver, kidney and eye problems.

In fact a study published in the British Medical Journal found that twice as many users suffered a serious health problem as benefitted from the drugs - I wrote about this last year (Good Life Letter June 27, 2010)

Straight forward thinking is all that is needed

The argument for these reforms to the NHS is that it is costing too much to run the service under the current management. So we need to change things around.  Apparently unless we reduce the cost of the NHS we may end up losing it altogether... which is just MADDNESS!

While America is attempting to force the concept of a national health service free at the point of delivery and equitable to all - why are we going backwards?

The changes needed are abundantly clear:

1) Stop the drugs companies from price fixing, scaremongering and weaselling their way to massive profits. Sure they have to make a buck in order to re-invest in their development programmes etc, but when GSK the market leader reports a fourth quarter rise in profits of 66% (£2.25bn) you have to wonder.

2) Let managers manage, and clinical staff deliver class leading care. I'm not saying that the current way of managing hospitals is correct; arguably there are far too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

3) However, make sure the roles aren't blurred. Sack the incompetent managers if they fail, remove the stupidity of overarching Health & Safety precautions and keep the place clean - surely that's all it takes.

4) Get politicians to listen to the experts in the field not think tanks, economists or spin doctors. What about health leaders, doctors and professors?

5) Measure the health service by the lives saved, extended or enhanced not by the average cost of treatment.
I sincerely hope Mr. Cameron's brother-in-law has some success over the Sunday dinner table in getting the government to see the error of their ways.

If he needs any help I do a mean beef and Yorkshire pudding to help the passage of debate, plus I think I might have a thing or two to add - basically it's a NATIONAL (as in for everybody) HEALTH (one that makes you better) SERVICE (a provision of the state).

Yours, as always


Ray

PS.  As promised a few weeks ago, I have finished my report on the Great Flu Debate.

Click here to download your free copy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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