Sunday, March 20, 2005

NHS: Doubled Spending Still Hasn't Delivered

New Labour has doubled NHS spending in England from £34 billion in 1997-98 to £69 billion now, and the Sunday Times has a long piece on where all this extra money has gone. They report an audit carried out by the King's Fund that concludes:

The bulk of new funding for the NHS is being eaten up by pay increases for staff and other “cost pressures”.

The funding increase left for new hospital services in 2004- 05 was only 2.4% despite an overall increase of 12%.

Figures for new doctors and nurses are overstated because more NHS staff are working part-time.

Waiting lists are coming down but some waits for diagnostic tests for cancer and other diseases are increasing.

MRSA infections are still a “significant problem” for the NHS.

This is no surprise to those of us who believe we need a completely different approach based on privatisation, competition and choice. And with health spending now heading for 9 per cent of GDP, we simply must switch over.

But how do we get there? How do we convince the electorate that breaking up the NHS is the only long-term solution?

Of course, in an ideal world, the Tories would adopt the policy and then use all their powers of persuasion to win the argument.

Hmm.

Unfortunately, my experiences on the doorstep show that, despite everything, the public still believe the NHS can and should be saved.

The Tories may be wimps, but hell, they want to get elected. So they have to confine themselves to generalised attacks on bureaucrats and their promise to revive Hattie Jacques. Well, there is that thing about meeting half the cost of private operations, but even that is interpreted by some as an attack on motherhood.

Public choice theory explains why it's so difficult to shrink the state. Out there on the doorsteps I'm discovering people may want lower taxes, but they sure don't want us to dismantle the NHS.

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