Posts Tagged ‘postcode lottery’

Our political parties need to be honest about NHS rationing

21/02/2013, 07:00:40 AM

by Peter Watt

Yesterday saw the publication by NICE of their latest guidance on the use of IVF by the NHS.  It said that women should be able to access IVF quicker (ie younger) and also that the upper range of women able to access the treatment rises from 39-42 in England and Wales.  This has to be seen as a good thing, a reflection of the continued advances in medical treatment.  What was in the past impossible becomes possible.

Except read the small print.  What NICE are doing is providing advice to NHS Trusts as to what they can do if they choose to.  As Dr Sue Avery from the British Fertility Society told the BBC:

“It’s good that there’s the possibility there, but the funding does not match. I can’t see any prospect of it happening immediately. Our biggest concern is hanging on to the funding we’ve got.”

Now quick declaration of interest here; my wife Vilma and I underwent IVF.  Initially we had treatment on the NHS and then went privately.  We were successful and have a beautiful daughter as a result.  But at the time we were incredibly lucky that where we lived was still offering treatment on the NHS.  Plenty of others no longer did or offered a much more limited service.  Because the reality of the NHS is that on a whole variety of fronts it rations treatment.

On Tuesday there was a story about a man who had had a gastric band on the NHS but who was left with large amounts of excessive abdominal skin.  His local health service had refused to pay for his apronectomy and he was facing a bill of some £15-20,000.


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After Mid Staffs, Labour must be brave and take on the cult of the NHS

14/02/2013, 07:00:40 AM

by Peter Watt

Imagine for a minute if there was a terrible accident that claimed a hundred lives; it would dominate the news for weeks.  Or the outbreak of food poisoning caused by some poor hygiene in a major food distributor that made some people ill and perhaps a few poor vulnerable souls to die; it would be a huge story.  The horsemeat scandal has been front page news for days and it’s not (yet) a public health concern.  And yet 1200 people are allowed to die unnecessarily in a NHS hospital and no one seems to notice!  The Francis report into failings at the Mid Staffs hospital was news for a day – and on some outlets it didn’t even top the news schedule for the whole day.  Up to ten other hospitals are now being looked at as their mortality rates are worryingly high.  What is going on?

It really is bizarre; no matter how many times we read about those unable to help themselves being left in wet or soiled beds or left to starve in one of our hospitals it seems to make no difference.  There is an attitude about the NHS that makes it all but un-challengeable.  Politicians in particular are scared of the NHS.  The Tories decided to ring-fence the NHS budget when they were busy slashing virtually every other departmental budget so scared were they of being seen as anti-NHS.  Labour wraps itself in the NHS flag at every opportunity.  Labour politicians who’ve tried to tinker with it are castigated – Alan Milburn and John Reid still have the scars.  We say things like “the NHS is the envy of the world.”  And seem to actually believe it!  The truth is that virtually no other country has copied it as a model.

What is true is that many countries rightly envy the fact that we have universal free health care, they don’t though envy the way that we have chosen to deliver it.  Yes there are some incredible people working for the NHS that provide a great quality of care.  And yes, many of these people work hard and, often under great pressure care for patients with skill and compassion.  But every time anyone criticises the NHS as a model of health care delivery, people tell stories of amazing care and lives saved.  We remember the care that we had when we or a loved one needed it.  We remember that we, and our children were born in NHS hospitals and look with fear at the health care system in the States.  Those criticising are branded as anti-NHS and people back off.


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Nick Palmer says the sacred cow of income tax may be unwell

15/06/2010, 02:33:56 PM

One of the curious features of being a Labour MP in the last three elections was that we would often wake up and find out from the newspapers that we were irrevocably committed to something that we had not discussed, but which Tony or Gordon had decided was vital to our chances.

A hardy perennial was the recurrent commitment not to increase the standard rate of income tax. This was part of the New Labour deal: we were not unilateralists; we weren’t going to nationalise the commanding heights; and we wouldn’t put up your income tax.

This probably did help initially in refurbishing our image, but it has become a sacred cow. In these troubled times, we should re-examine the cow to find out how it’s getting on and if, in electoral terms, it is actually still alive. (more…)

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