Apologies for a quiet few months. I’ve been seeing the NHS from another angle, having acquired myself a diagnosis of ‘syringomyelia’. This is a rather obscure spinal condition – relatively common in spaniels, apparently, but quite rare in people. You know you’ve got something a bit unusual when you go and see your GP to discuss treatment options, and she says, ‘Now tell me what that is’.
So how has the NHS been, so far? Not perfect, but not bad either. I’ve met some highly skilled health professionals. I’ve had access to MRI scans when I’ve needed them. I’ve had onward referrals to appropriate specialists – so far, as and when required. I’ve been treated with respect and courtesy by virtually every NHS worker I’ve encountered.
The problems, predictably enough, are around privatisation, and the drive towards cost-cutting that you get when you ‘marketise’ the NHS. I’ve had appointments at one hospital that is struggling with a massive PFI debt and pushing through savage cuts as a direct result. It shows. I’ve also talked to clinicians (at the same hospital) who have told me of the growing clinical risks as managers set targets that cannot be met without compromising patient care.
These are not failures of the NHS. This is an important point. The NHS works, saves lives, and transforms the quality of peoples’ lives, and does this as a matter of routine, every single day. The failures here are of Government policy, which continues to be one of dismantling the NHS and destroying the values and ethos that make the NHS work.
The latest bit of madness is, of course, the Government-commissioned McKinsey report – out since March, but our pals in New Labour have been sitting on it. McKinsey is a particularly vile management consultancy that has made a mint out of the public sector. The HSJ summary is here. McKinsey recommend axing 10% of NHS jobs to achieve £20 billion savings.
Coincidentally, £20 billion is the estimated cost of the Government’s loopy privatisation schemes. If there are savings to be made, perhaps stopping the dash for privatisation might be a better bet than imposing massive cuts in clinical care. Even better, maybe we could just invest the £20 billion in patient care, and have an NHS we can all be proud of.
There’s one NHS cut I would welcome. Around £350 million of our money was spent last year on management consultants – the greedy parasites who feed off the NHS. The result? Reports that aren’t fit to be used as toilet paper.