Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Lancet makes some cutting remarks..

No, not another diatribe from me on the NHS but a rather more nuanced report from the leading medical journal, The Lancet. Not known as a nestbed of left wing loonies, this traditionally conservative weekly has just published an editorial (here) saying that the government should stop treating the NHS as a "failing bank or business". It starts by restating the views of many:

“65 years after its inception, the NHS is still one of the greatest examples of universal access to health care, which is free at the point of delivery, and seen as a fundamental human right—a system many countries are striving for and others are in the process of dismantling in a misguided response to the current financial crisis.”

But then goes on to attack the government and also take a swipe at the media:

“Yet, reading headlines last week, such as “Struggling A & E units to get £500 million bailout” and “NHS managers to get price comparison website and use Bargain Hunt for inspiration in bid to cut supplies bills by £1·5 bn”, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current Coalition Government views the NHS as a failing bank or business. This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a health-care system that has patient care and safety at its heart. Rather it expects the system, and in it each trust for itself, to be efficient, cost saving, and financially successful or else it is deemed a failing enterprise. Doctors, nurses, and health workers are readily blamed for the quality of care they provide within these constraints. And the UK’s media obligingly colludes.”

The editorial goes on to express concerns about the government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012. Since it was first proposed the government’s plans to reorganise the NHS have come under a range of criticisms from the medical profession and beyond.
Of this Act The Lancet writes:

“Of course, with the new Health and Social Care Act 2012, which came into force on April 1 this year, the Secretary of State for Health no longer has a duty to provide comprehensive health services. This responsibility now lies within a complex system of organisations, such as NHS England and the 211 clinical commissioning groups with their commissioning support units, and regulators, including Monitor, the Trust Development Authority, and the Care Quality Commission. The exact responsibilities are at best complex, not easily understood, and at worst deliberately obfuscated. Who exactly is leading and to what end is even less clear.”

It's not before time that the medical profession started making a noise about what's going on. We'd better listen to what the professionals' are saying. Is it too much to expect the British Medical Association and the Nursing Council to join the chorus?

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