Oliver Duff

i Editor's Letter: Can the NHS thrive with a personal profit motive?

 

Share

 

Should our NHS doctors and nurses be given a financial stake in the hospitals where they work?

That’s the proposal being considered by Health ministers in Westminster (but not Cardiff or Edinburgh) – “mutuals” that are part-owned and part-run by NHS staff. A John Lewis for the public sector, if you will. Just no one mention the P words (privatisation, proceeds, profit). Or the Co-op.

The NHS will fail to cope with ever-growing demand and constrained resources in the next few years without the extraordinary commitment and dedication of its 1.4 million staff – beyond even that shown by them at present.

So the theory is that “mutuals” would boost staff engagement in the NHS, allowing it to cope with cuts, yet improving standards by being more responsive to patients’ needs. Certainly many NHS staff would welcome less diktat from London.

While there is little political disagreement over doctors and nurses being given a greater say in our treatment, handing them a financial stake and allowing them to share any “proceeds” of that treatment is much more controversial - especially when the business partners are private healthcare firms.

One of the success stories cited is Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, a “basket case” losing £10m a year until taken over by private provider Circle, which manages it for the NHS. The hospital is now breaking even and scores highest in England for quality of patient care. The political argument is whether or not staff having a financial share – as some doctors do in Circle – is a critical factor in such turnarounds.

Nothing much is going to happen before the election in May, but the Conservatives have warmed to expanding these mutuals in the next Parliament.

To spell out the obvious, treating patients is quite different to helping retail customers. One of the key objections to NHS mutuals is simply that doctors should be worrying about patients’ needs and nothing else – particularly in hospitals, where so many critical (and expensive) areas of treatment compete for resources.

Patients’ trust in clinical staff is based on the knowledge that the NHS and its people aspire to universal healthcare – if not regardless of cost, at least not prioritising that above all else. It is not clear that this trust can survive the introduction of profit.

To take an example of mutuals already existing in the NHS: GPs remain hugely trusted, certainly relative to other professions (journalists among them). But where that public trust has wavered in recent years, GPs’ (self-determined) pay is cited as a factor.

Can the NHS thrive with a personal profit motive? Something tells me we’ll receive a few letters from you about this...

i@independent.co.uk.

Twitter.com: @olyduff

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker