03 November 2007

NHS Independence

Criticising Conservative proposals to make the NHS independent, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw says, "It is simply wrong to suggest that taxpayers should invest £90bn in the NHS but there should be no political accountability for how that money is spent."

Indeed! In truth, what is wrong is that the Government should throw so much of taxpayers' money at the NHS but without giving the medical professionals the freedom they need to look after their patients properly. Since we learnt about the death of ninety patients from C.difficile at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, I have heard two first-hand stories revealing a life-threatening lack of care and attention to detail.

The first went in to have a kidney out. When asked to sign the paperwork authorising the operation, my lawyer friend decided to read the details of what he was about to authorise. Noticing that it stated the left kidney was to be removed, he queried surely it was his right kidney that was the problem. His question was dismissed but when he persisted, a check was made. Sure enough, they had been about to operate on the wrong kidney ... a minor detail.

The second, just a couple of days ago, was to undergo a minor procedure but was turned away because he has MRSA — something that was detected and recorded in his medical records while he was in for a hernia operation earlier in the year but was left untreated with the patient, unaware of being a carrier, discharged into the community. Again ... a minor detail.

This is what the government healthcare watchdog means when it criticised the trust for "focusing too much on balancing the books and meeting waiting-time targets, at the expense of patient care and infection control." This is the consequence of Government targets, unprecedented cuts in the number of acute hospital beds, and a shortage of nursing staff.

It is time the NHS was freed from political tinkering. Let us hope that Gordon Brown is still happy to adopt Conservative proposals as he formulates his "vision" and that the Conservatives' draft NHS (Autonomy and Accountability) Bill becomes Government policy.


The Stonemason said...

£90 billion per year equates very roughly to £1500 per person. What quality of health insurance could I buy for my family of 4 with £6000: two healthy adults in their 40s and two pre-teen children? Any answers?

Anonymous said...

Ah Ha, Stonemason. Would you be allowed to take out private health insurance and stop paying your National Insurance contributions? I doubt it but I sympathise with your comments.

G in Oxfordshire