Thursday, October 12, 2006

The NHS is good in parts around here

Pop your postcode into this site to see how it’s doing near you. The good news for us is that our hospital trust is rated as good both for quality of services and for use of resources; the bad news is that our ambulance trust is rated as weak for both.

The Great Western Ambulance Trust only came into being in April so I’m not sure there’s really been time to assess its performance. It was formed by the merger of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon’s trusts. I’m on the PPI Forum for it, my suggestion that it should be called The Western Ambulance Trust was rejected on the grounds of initials.

The NHS is about a decade behind commerce in measuring performance. They’ve gone through the pain and frustration of being measured only on quantity and are at last now also being measured on quality. If the Tories hadn’t left them to fester for eighteen years they wouldn’t be so far behind either in measurement technique or performance. But I don’t suppose such subtleties will stop opposition politicians from trying to make political capital out of the alleged crisis.

James Callaghan apparently never said ‘crisis, what crisis’ about the winter of discontent in 1978. Were he around today however he could, with justification, say it about our NHS. It has problems but it’s so much better than it was in 1997.

10 Comments:

At 10:34, Blogger cassilis said...

I don't think anyone would question that it's better than it was in 1997 - just whether it's 'as better' as you'd expect given a real terms doubling in funding.

I'd say nowhere near...

 
At 11:03, Blogger Hughes Views said...

A huge amount of the extra funding was necessary to make up for the lack of investment over the previous fifty years. Equipment and buildings were on their last legs.

The costs of newly available treatments, for example for cancer, are very high and getting higher.

People are living longer so more people are needing treatment for 'old age' ailments.

Staff are now being paid decent wages.

If funding had been left at the miserly Tory levels the service would be in a real crisis by now.

That's the level that any comparison should be made with...

 
At 12:02, Blogger cassilis said...

Fair point Hughes.

I think the observation still stands though that given all the factors you highlight (rising drug & treatment costs, people living longer etc.) the current system of a universally free-at-point-of-care service funded through taxation must have a limited life-span?

Over the next 20-30 years the tensions inherent in that system will become unbearable. Only those on the hard-left who'd happily see a return to 90%+ tax rates can realistically claim that they'd be able to find the hard cash to resolve those tensions so we need a bipartisan and mature discussion about alternatives like social insurance etc.

 
At 12:17, Blogger Hughes Views said...

In my gloomier moments I agree with you. I left a similar comment a few days back on Skipper's splendid blog. But will any politician ever be able to tell the public the awful truth and open up a real discussion about the future of a universal service?

They are so much at the mercy of the media who are always keen to leap onto a 'we must pay for this wonder drug' story just after/under their piece about appalling stealth tax rises...

 
At 12:27, Blogger Bob Piper said...

The choice is not over "whether it's 'as better' as you'd expect given a real terms doubling in funding" but one in which we can always vote to go back to the Party that massively underfunded the Health Service (and education, and local government) for nearly 20 years, or carry on with the Government that has made the improvements. It's straightforward really. Healthwise things will get worse over the next decade... but putting the vultures in charge of the rabbit run won't help.

 
At 13:27, Blogger cassilis said...

Hughes - if a Tory tries to open up that debate he or she will be attacked by Labour as someone trying to 'privatise the NHS'. If a Labour politician tries it they'll be attacked by the left in their own party. The prospects don't look good.

Bob - you must have noticed that us Torys aren't vultures anymore. Are you suggesting that you don't believe us...

 
At 16:50, Blogger Bob Piper said...

Do I believe you? Not for a fraction of nanosecond. Tories are what they are, and you can dress a wolf in a sheep's clothing, but it will always be a wolf.

What you describe as 'opening up the health debate' really means opening up the National Health Service to being a bastardised US system where the well-off can pay and those on wefare get basic assistance, and everyone else can go stuff themselves, and yes, I will oppose that from whatever quarter. Stupid, old fashioned socialist that I am I believe in a system whereby health care is not determined by the size of your wallet, where the strong look after the weak, the healthy look after the poor, those that can, help those that cannot.

 
At 17:33, Blogger cassilis said...

I'm only looking for alternative ideas Bob. As I said in my first post the current system has a life span - I want to look at what we do when that is reached and you don't seem particularly interested in that..?

 
At 13:49, Blogger Bob Piper said...

That, Cassilis, is because I don't accept your premise.

 
At 18:36, Blogger Hughes Views said...

With goodwill from all political parties, a willingness to change and develop from its many employees and an agreement that the relatively low National Insurance and tax rates we pay for it must continue to increase as costs go up, there's no reason that it shouldn't survive and improve.

But I can't believe that opposition politicians won't always be tempted to exploit any minor blemishes to such an extent as to undermine it. The current signs from our local Tory, LibDem and even Green politicians are not good.

 

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