Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Not a waste

Apparently the £19bn extra funding into the NHS is mainly 'wasted', with only £5.9bn going directly to improved care.


Don Paskini begs to differ, and I can see what he means.

1) +6.6bn on pay. Nurses were underpaid in 1997. Now they get a reasonable wage. Someone had to pay it, and hopefully the improvements in pay will have had a positive effetc on morale. Which might help make the NHS a nicer place to be. Now, I also think that GP and Consultants contracts have been badly set up, but there are thousands of people in the NHS who fully deserve a better wage.

2) +2.2bn on drugs. This includes not only price increases (which the NHS can't do much about) but also the new treatments sanctioned by NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) to improve care

3) +1.6bn to employ more doctors to comply with EU working time directives. Do you remember when Junior Doctors were working 60+ hours a week? Falling asleep on shift? No more. I reckon that there must be some benefits, if only in that junior doctors don't burn out before they fully qualify.

4) +1.1bn on new buildings. Some of the old buildings would clearly have been detrimental to health services. New buildings may well have had indirect beneficial effects

5) +1bn on medical equipment. Now, this is silly. Surely more spent on new equipment is going to help improve care. Or perhaps we should just use the old stuff until it breaks.

6) +0.6bn on medical negligence lawsuits. Ok. But in the scheme of things it's not much compared to the other 18.6bn. On one positive side, it may well mean that mistakes are not repeated, having been brought out into the open.

This still leaves the 5.9bn going 'directly' into improvements, such as reduced waiting lists (what used to take 18 months now takes 18 weeks, a 75% cut in waiting times), more doctors and nurses, better provision of day surgery, less time in hospital for elderly patient...

The line that the extra cash is wasted is pernicious. It suggests, and supports the idea that the NHS is not worth funding. But it is. For example, healthcare in the USA costs twice as much, and is no more effective in terms of comparable outcomes.

The NHS was crap in 1997, it's better now, but not perfect. We (the taxpayers) spent more money on it. Had that money not been spent, the current problems would be chickenfeed.

[edited 22/3]

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