The suggestion that the NHS in general and hospital care in particular could be better wouldn’t fly in the face of empirical evidence. Deadly hospital-acquired infections are at an all-time high. Waiting lists are crippling, in many instances literally. Men and women are made to share the same crowded wards, something that didn’t even happen in the Soviet Union. When already in hospital, patients, often writhing in pain, have to wait days before being seen by a specialist (spoken from personal, nearly fatal, experience at one of London’s newest and best NHS hospitals). In short, Britain is the only first-world country with third-world medical care.
There’s clearly a problem there, and the bright sparks in the NHS have come up with a solution to make King Solomon proud. The best way for a patient to protect himself from an NHS hospital is to stay out. No hospital, no problem.
‘The old hospital-based system has to develop into a more preventative, community-based system,’ says Steve Fields of NHS Future Forum. The word is ‘preventive’, not ‘preventative’, but let’s not get pedantic about the odd extra syllable. People in or around government services must be paid per syllable, which explains their style, straight out of Mrs Malaprop’s School of English as First Language. They’ve developed their own vocabularies and their own logic, but in this case the latter is unassailable. Especially if patients aren’t bleeding too fast.
‘It’s much better for a good number of patients to be cared for in their homes,’ according to Mike Farrar, head of the NHS Confederation. How good a number? Well, one in four actually. In fact, too many misguided people have come to think of ‘hospitals being a place of default.’ But that’s exactly what they are, Mr Farrar. A patient goes to a GP, who prescribes something. If the medicine doesn’t work, the GP will refer the patient to a specialist, who (after an inevitable wait of a few weeks) will try a few tricks of his own. Those failing, the patient may go into hospital — as precisely ‘a place of default’. It’s hard to believe that, in an ideal world where publicly financed hospitals don’t routinely use MRSI as a deadly weapon, one in four patients would be better treated at home, where neither the facilities nor the personnel available can possibly match those even at an NHS hospital.
‘If we release the costs of these beds… — then that’s the right thing to do,’ opines Mike Farrar. But the costs of hospital beds have been ‘released’ for years, with the funds shifted into burgeoning administrative staffs. One example: a Birmingham hospital recently reduced its number of beds while hiring, at the cost of £100,000 a year, a Director of Diversity, who immediately proceeded to issue illiterate memoranda on the importance of being sensitive to cultural differences. The tendency of replacing frontline medical services with PC buffoons hints at the real purpose behind the NHS or any other gigantic socialist project. This has less to do with its declared aim than with expanding the government’s control of peoples’ lives. One senses that those directly in charge of that function, all those optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation, look at doctors, nurses and beds as irritating hindrances. Those irrelevancies get in the way of the real work.
To be fair, the government is trying to change the balance by taking some money from the Peter of admin to pay the Paul of medicine. The overall NHS budget is growing of course, God forbid it should be otherwise, crisis or no crisis, meltdown or no meltdown. But the rate of growth has slowed down to something like 0.5% a year after inflation, which is enough for the worshippers of the NHS God to scream about savage cuts. Their problem is that the government, under pressure from its own backbenchers and voters (remember them?), seems to be acting contrary to what the NHS is really all about. With money going into frontline services, there may not be enough left to pay for all those bureaucratic freeloaders with their targets and memoranda.
What matters about socialised medicine is the adjective, not the noun. Hence the proposed changes, clearly designed to get the runaway train back on track. Makes one wonder why no other Western European country, most of them even more socialist than we are, has totally nationalised medicine.