Mark Steel: Exporting the NHS won't make it better

The NHS has a global reputation not because it's a brand, but because it's free

Share
Related Topics

Someone I know was once contacted by an advertising agency, who told him: "We'd love you to star in our latest adverts, because you have a reputation as someone whose opinion can't be bought. And that gives you integrity." Health Minister Anne Milton follows a similar logic, because she's announced that the Health Service will be encouraged to make profits by setting up businesses abroad, to take advantage of the NHS brand's "worldwide reputation".

She has a point, although hopefully someone in parliament might point out a detail she's missed, and say: "With respect to the honourable member, the reason it has a worldwide reputation is because it's not run for profit so it's free, not because it's a well-known brand like Levi's bloody jeans or Walkers sodding crisps, so to turn that into a business would be like saying 'People love the Dalai Lama as he's all calm and peaceful so let's get him to sell landmines', you steaming great Tory idiot."

She must think the popularity of the NHS is down to the logo, and if only our banks could come up with something as catchy, people would say: "Barclays is the envy of the world. People come from right across Europe to use their cash machines."

And she must have watched the NHS bit of the Olympics Opening Ceremony thinking: "Well done, Danny, for exploiting the NHS brand. We can sell the health service to Japan now and make millions, as they'll think all the beds have dancing children underneath."

Maybe she thinks the reason it's been free for the past 60 years is a marketing ploy to attract customer loyalty, the way you don't have to pay for the first month of a Sky sports package. So now each NHS trust will be free to sell itself as a business, making the most of the worldwide reputation by opening profitable wards across the world, with adverts saying: "Get sorted out sooner and back to good humour, Let Leicester Infirmary whip out your tumour."

And in today's global market place, the NHS will need to diversify into other areas of business opportunity. It can start a chain of restaurants with nurses as waitresses, where you're met at the door by a receptionist who says: "I'm afraid there are no seats available for two months, but we could squeeze you on to a trolley." Consultants will tell you they can't remove your gall stones until April, as they've got a lot of private work on since University Hospital of Cardiff took up a 40 per cent share of Shell Oil.

Then we can exploit everyone's brand. The people in each town who are loved for looking after the elderly will get a visit from the Government, to be told: "You're very popular, so put that reputation to some use at last, by setting up a company that charges for helping blind people across the road."

And a minister will declare: "These changes had to be made, but the spirit of the Investec NHS in alliance with EDF Heart Transplants remains exactly the same as ever."

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Grand Mosque in Mosul  

The al-Baghdadi doctrine: leading British Muslims offer their response

Independent Voices
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil