Thursday, 20 January 2011
The NHS juggernaut rolls on
So, on the face of it, the government’s move to slash bureaucracy seems like a good idea. Around 30% (or 21,000) NHS pen pushers are due to be wheeled away in their office chairs, to the local Job Centre, stopping on the way to cash their redundancy cheques for £1 billion. A mere 40,000 will remain in post to provide vital management functions; after all, policy documents and gender monitoring reports don’t write themselves, do they?
However, before you get the Champagne out to celebrate this bonfire of the bureaucrats, temper your joy with the fact that much of the work these managers were doing is now being passed to GPs; and we all know how generous and public-spirited our doctors are. With the average GP scraping by on just £105,000 a year (not including evenings and weekends) these front-line angels of the health service will no doubt take on this extra work for a very reasonable sum and we shall all be better served.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? We’re going to swap one bunch of paper pushers for another grasping faction of the medical fraternity. This is all going to go swimmingly. Dare I suggest that the health secretary's plans are going to be as easy to implement as pushing manure back into a cow with the aid of a paperclip.
Why do we seem to have so many problems running healthcare in the UK? I know other countries have their problems, but there’s something seriously amiss here. Are we sure that mucking around with a crumbling structure is going to make any difference at all? If we were talking about something like a sports club or a large corporation then I’d say give it a shot but this is people’s lives and pain we are gambling with.
On one hand politicians are trying to save money and stretch budgets while, on the other, the unions and medical profession are trying to stop any erosion in their members’ interests. In the meantime the poor voiceless souls in the middle – the patients – appear to have been entirely overlooked. No one has asked us what we really want. Still, the NHS wasn't set up for the exclusive benefit of the sick and the frail. Perhaps it’s time for a far more fundamental reform.