Saturday, June 02, 2007

More NHS Wishful Thinking

Wouldn't it be great if everything could be... like... well... great


You remember that dreamy idea that we could take the politics out of the NHS by appointing an independent committee like the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee to run it? If not, take a squint at this blog.

It would never work of course, because healthcare is far more complex than the "straightforward" business of hitting a single relatively unambiguous target like the inflation rate. Still, that didn't stop the dreamers.

Now the idea has resurfaced in a report for the Nuffield Trust by Professor Brian Edwards, emeritus professor of healthcare development at Sheffield University. He says:

"The NHS is being damaged by being treated as a political football."

With which we wholeheartedly agree.

But then he goes on to argue for a BBC solution. And as someone else nearly said, if the BBC is the answer, you're asking the wrong question.

This government has certainly proved beyond dispute that healthcare is far too important to be left to politicians. But putting it in the hands of a bunch of quangocrats entirely dependent on politicos for their funding, is hardly likely to improve things. Indeed, it's a recipe for even more confusion and buck passing. Even the Prof admits "anything that takes up almost 9% of GDP is never going to be free of political influence."

As we've argued many times, the real solution is to take the politicos out of the loop altogether- or at least to confine them to the framework regulatory role they undertake with most other consumer services.

Health money needs to flow directly from the customers to the suppliers. With competing social insurers, it could, and healthcare could then be driven by customer wishes rather than political assertion.

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