Leading article: An underlying sickness

Share
Related Topics

At a time when our health service is wrestling with a major debt crisis, it is dispiriting to learn that it is also wasting a huge amount of money on a daily basis. The Department of Health claims today that the NHS could save £2.2bn a year if local trusts improved the way they handled certain services.

While some trusts admit around 10 per cent of patients the day before their operation, others admit 60 per cent. There is no medical reason why some trusts should call so many patients into hospital early; it appears to be merely an expensive institutional custom. Likewise, some doctors are prescribing costly cholesterol-lowering statins when cheaper ones are available. And many patients continue to be sent for surgical procedures such as having their tonsils removed and hysterectomies when cheaper, non-surgical, options are available.

That such inefficiencies exist is depressing, but should come as no surprise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, has poured a huge amount of money into the NHS since 2000. The health sector will soon enjoy an annual budget of £100bn a year. But this increased funding has not been accompanied by a demand that the manner in which health services are delivered in the UK should be fundamentally reformed. This is now looking like irresponsible government.

There has been no shortage of targets imposed by the centre for improvement in areas such as operation waiting times and waiting lists. But this is not the same thing as genuine reform. The ethos of an inefficient, monopolistic health provider has been left unchallenged. And, in fact, the efforts of trusts to hit such targets has merely led to greater inefficiencies elsewhere. For example, many have devoted resources to cutting operation waiting times, but have neglected to analyse the efficiency of their hospitals' procedures for discharging patients.

The present debt crisis in many NHS trusts is another symptom of the same underlying illness. These are not organisations used to the disciplines of delivering their services on budget, since they have always been bailed out in the past. But now that the flow of funding from the Treasury is likely to slow from 2008 onwards, they are being asked to learn to do so very quickly. It is this that has raised the spectre of 20,000 NHS job cuts next year.

It is not enough for the Government to demand that the NHS set its house in order. It must look to its own responsibility for this crisis. Until those in power take drastic action to decentralise the provision and allocation of healthcare, this wastage will continue - and the British public will continue to be denied value for money.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to 'adapt and survive'

Nigel Edwards
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
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?