the Disillusioned kid: NH$
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NH$

I don't really understand why unions feel the need invite government ministers to address their conferences, as if they're going to spout anything but propaganda. That said, if you are going to invite them, it's a great opportunity to bring them down a notch. Patricia Hewitt the minister responsible for the National Health Service has received a distinctly frosty reception from both Unison and the Royal College of Nursing.

The reason for anger amongst nurses is not difficult to find. As a result of a looming budget deficit, the NHS is haemoraging staff at a disturbing rate. NHS Watch was set up in early April to keep track of job losses accross the service. At the time of writing, the total stands at 10,349. Unsurprisingly a lot of nurses are looking at those figures and wondering if they might be next and that's before we even start thinking about the ramifications for patient care. Rather more surprising is Hewitt's assertion that the NHS has witnessed its best years since its inception.

Hewitt has also done little to endear herself to healthworkers by blaming them for the NHS' current difficulties, suggesting they are a consequence of recent pay rises. Cynics have pointed out, however, that the ever increasing involvement of private firms in the NHS might just have had an impact. It goes without saying that private firms are not getting involved in the health service to help people. They're there to make money; as businesses that's their raison d'etre. As such, the idea that privatisation (whether it's called that or not) is in patients' best interests is dubious at best.

I'm not a great believer in old-fashioned nationalisation. Why would we expect large faceless bureaucracies to operate in the interests of normal people? Nevertheless, it should be pretty obvious that the profit motive is almost certainly worse and takes away even the pretense of democratic accountability, which of course is part of the reason why it's so popular in some circles. The current drive to integrate the private and public sectors is in many ways the worst of all worlds, but does do a very good job of moving public money into private hands. Which is all well and good if they're your hands, but not quite so good if you die in a hospital corridor waiting for a nurse.
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