Andrew Lansley must spell out the importance of private enterprise to the NHS

Julia Manning for Daily Mail 08th February

The Health Bill bashing descended into an Andrew Lansley lashing session yesterday.

Despite vocal support from GPs themselves, opposition politicians and unions have been joined by journalists who are all venting their ire on the man and his manouveres to change the NHS into a front-line led service.

Some of the formal objections published by professional bodies have read like New Year wish-lists for their own particular speciality rather than anything strategic or realistic for healthcare overall. The Bill has become the whipping boy for every disappointment, regret and unrealised expectation that anyone has ever had about the NHS.

NHS diagram


Amidst all the Tarentino-esque cries of ‘Kill the Bill!’ people are clearer as to what they are objecting to: the lack of narrative, the messy process, their interests not being served, the watering down or rising complexity. 2020health sketched out the complex of new structures last year (see above), although that was before another layer of 50 National Commissioning Board outposts were added.

But what is not clear is the NHS’s solution to the well defined problem – we knew in the last parliament that £20bn savings had to be made. But history also shows that the NHS never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity – most NHS staff are far too content on their guaranteed taxpayers salaries to set in motion the radical changes that are required to ensure rising demands can be met. So without a political kick up the backside we’d continue with too many hospitals requiring public money bailouts, excessive waste, shocking neglect of the elderly and a clinical workforce divorced from the reality of the cost of care.

As a letter to the Times today points out, there are significant benefits to the NHS from expanding the opportunity to treat private patients. Overall there is still an untold story of partnership between the NHS and private sector which is not only being lost, but which is being damaged by the public sector utopians (see diagram below). The top story on the news today was the danger of anti-business rhetoric in the UK at present. This has been fuelled by stories of greed – but let’s be honest – where there are humans there is greed, no matter whether they are employed in the private or public sectors. It is a separate issue.

NHS diagram


A significant problem for the economy is that confidence for investors in healthcare in the UK is being massively damaged both by the short-sighted, protectionist opposition to competition that is being driven by the health unions, and the lack of long-sighted political leadership that has a secure narrative detailing the massive contribution of the private sector to growth. George Osborne’s speech last night to the Federation of Small Businesses was not before time, and it has to be built on. Noble Lords must today take a historical perspective. The NHS has a track record of making flawed policy work, and it wouldn’t be where it is today without competition and private investment.

About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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