Moustachioed medical maestro Lord Winston has been questioning if the government's NHS reforms will improve the services on offer or actually lead to a decline in service.
For better or for worse?
In my opinion the reforms are not an effort to improve the NHS's services more an attempt to introduce the potential for someone, anyone, to make some money.
GPs are not business managers, at school I hope they paid more attention in Biology that they did in Business studies and I bet few of them had any interest in running the school bank or flogging fake Rolexes to their classmates.
A lot of them still won't be interested, but now they've no option. Unless of course they employ some sort of management company to do this admin for them. Bingo there we have it, there's money to be made here.
I believe making a profit from public services reduces the quality of those services.
Wherever there is profit to be made in public service you are effectively removing money from that service. Pay £100 to get your broken arm fixed to a public institution and the ineffectiveness associated with the public sector will mean you only get value from three quarters of your money. So £75 worth of plaster-cast care is what you'd receive.
The private sector is a different kettle of fish though. Much more slick and effective, They'd be up there at 85% effectiveness so maybe you're onto a good thing? Except there's the profit that needs to be taken first. So remove the lucky shareholder's £20 and then you'll actually get 85% of you £80 or £68 worth of nursey care. So not great value really.
These numbers are plucked from the air but the principle stands. Where something is done for profit you always need to remove the shareholder's Barbados trip cash before starting to spend money on the service. Therefore you get less stuff for your money.
However if there's money to be made you'll get more than one person trying to grab the cash. Competition occurs and maybe the patient can get a slightly better deal. Company A may be saving for his Barbados trip but Company B has smaller ambitions and has his eye on a fortnight in Benidorm. So maybe company B will be cheaper. This philosophy of market forces runs through the conservative mindset and many think the NHS would be improved if competition were greater and the potential to make a buck the driver. A privatised NHS would offer this opportunity.
Is turning doctors into small-businessmen the thin end of the wedge? The Conservatives have always pledged allegiance to the principles of the NHS, ensuring it is free at point of contact, but deep down inside I feel they harbour a a grizzling grudge that public opinion wouldn't allow privatisation; even if it offered a better service at less cost to the tax payer.
The Health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has been on Radio 4 last week answering listeners questions and left an email address where he promised to answer any more questions posed. The email address is here
So I've asked the hypothetical question. If a privatised NHS could be guaranteed to offer a better service at a reduced cost to the public purse would he consider it as a way forward?