Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Mandate, What Mandate?
This Bill takes an axe to the NHS, where a surgeons scalpel was needed. It gives the responsibility for Primary Care into the hands of a somewhat bewildered bunch of Doctors, who have little experience of Commissioning health care, and will be placed in the position of both poacher and gamekeeper. Under the requirement to allow 'any willing provider', to provide services, it will become illegal, not to allow the likes of Tribal, Circle, Virgin, Serco et al, to tender for services, which will be decided on price, at the expense of quality, due to the ability they have, to provide care, at less than 'tariff prices'. They will manage this, by 'dumbing down' the staff cohort with, nurse practitioners, salaried GP's and the Health Services versions, of the 'Polish plumber'.
We do need some perspective on this, I think, because I am not one who holds the NHS in reverence, in fact I have often treated it with contempt ( which it deserved), and described many aspects of it with unguarded venom. But this was because of the many within it, who have meekly accepted substandard levels of care, turned a blind eye to their colleague's incompetence, and worse lied, to protect them, and thus, deny legitimate complainants, justice and candour. But was it ever the same? Doctors have been hiding behind the protection of the 'Bolam Test' for generations, on the simple principle that they are above the laws, that us mere mortals have to abide by. This is the unacceptable face of health care, both in the past and in the 21st century. As the paymaster of physicians, we deserve better.
But, the concept of 'free' health care for all (which is far from free), remains steadfastly my abiding belief. I spent a good part of my youth, and indeed my life, fighting for this goal, both for myself and for others. I became jaded by the actuality, many years ago (politics that is), after years of smoke filled rooms, far from the public eye, where the real decisions were made. The chamber was just the 'window dressing', for public view. 'Real Politic' was conducted always, behind closed doors. I gave it up, to wield my talents, for what they are worth, as someone in the 'real world', where you are judged by your peers, as competent, or having integrity and is the abiding tenet, I live by.
The NHS is important. But it has been flawed. A concept, conceived in the aftermath, of a war that was to change everything, was taken over by the self aggrandising, elite Doctor cohort, who began to manipulate the 'system' for their own ends. This was a construct, that within a few years, became a self perpetuating 'gravy train' for senior Doctors, Surgeons, and Consultants who had a foot in both the Public and Private camps. Manipulating the system, to enhance their income by 'cherry picking' the patients who could pay. Government stood by without demur, simply to keep them 'on side'. Thatcher ended some of that, probably, with an even worse system, that typified the excesses of the USA, where the concept of 'invoicing' everyone, for well, everything, was born. Another 'top down' re-organisation' conceived in an era, that was to provide a legacy for the future, we have yet to shed; Neo-Thatcherism.
Blair et al, pursued this ideal, with PFI, PPI, Darzi and all the rest of the 'slieght of hand' that attempted to hoodwink, the populace, that 'World Class Commissioning' was the legacy we were to enjoy, by gist of the huge additional funding deployed, to bring the NHS to a 21st century health care standard. De-regulation, privatisation and draconian social policy, was continued with renewed vigour. Like many before him, he bought off the GP's with new contracts, that they could only have dreamed of. The private sector boomed and management blossomed, together with the 'new era' of measuring everything, except care. NICE was born, the Quality Outcome Framework, was born, and we became gripped by surrogacy in our designs for measuring outcomes, instead of preventing disease or death. We believed the rhetoric peddled by 'Big Pharma', spurred on by that benign presence, in many of our lives, since childhood, our GP, who also bought into this, or retired (many did).
But what a betrayal! That same GP was being paid, quite considerable sums, to achieve these dubious, and often unrelated goals of lower LDL, increased HDL, lower BP, lower fasting plasma glucose, all founded in a flawed, even 'barmy' concept, with little or no scientific evidence to back it's goals. My masked hero has complained about this himself, here and here.
The public bestow, far too much benevolence, on those employed in Healthcare generally, and 'the hard pressed GP' in particular. Yet we are treated, with these appalling protocols, that are costing the earth, to no real effect, except of course the lovely money that accrues to GP's practise, and 'Big Pharma'. This is where real and meaningful cuts, should be made. And I do believe that QOF,s, ISTC contracts, and PFI's that are eating up the NHS budgets to a far distant horizon, and 'rubbish', protocols that do nothing to advance the health of the Nation, is a folly we will live to regret, and will bring us closer to the 'NHS' plc of nightmare proportion.