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« Mill on bureaucracy | Main | Ruth Kelly »

Reforming the NHS

The best thing I've watched on TV for months (alright, it's just about the only thing I've watched on TV for months) was Gerry Robinson's programme on reforming the NHS. The second part is on tonight at 9pm on BBC2, and it wraps up at the same time on Wednesday.

I would like to say that it was eye opening, but anyone who reads Doc Crippen knows full well what it's really like in the NHS. Confirmation of what Doc C has been saying came in spadesful, with a terrifying picture painted of an organisation which is institutionally incapable of doing its job, institutionally beyond reform. Robinson is an enthusiast for the NHS (as a Labour man, it's not surprising). He came over as a thoughtful  man and he is clearly a good businessman. But the levels of despair and depression that came over him as he realised what he was up against were a vindication for everyone who argues that the NHS is a national disgrace and cannot be reformed, but should be scrapped.

Or so I thought.

This afternoon I heard him interviewed on 5Live where he set out his position on what needs to happen now that we know the problems. Having seen what he has seen, his answers were breathtaking in their naivety. The NHS should apparently remain free at the point of use. He's not an economist then is he?  He should try reading Doctor Crippen on the subject. It needs better managers. Ah, managerialism. Everything will be alright with the right managers. Just a bit more money needed. Another blog, Stumbling and Mumbling, would put him right here.

I was left with the abiding impression that here was a man who had got stuck in the detail of a single hospital, and couldn't see the wood for the trees. He couldn't see the glaringly obvious fact that the NHS is not fit for purpose (to use a hackneyed phrase). The NHS is a zombie organisation. It's dead. Finished. We need to start again.

What we should replace it with is up for debate, or at least it would be if we had a single politician with the cojones to start one. Robinson said on the Radio 5 interview that he knew little or nothing about healthcare in other countries except that healthcare was good in the USA and France. This blindspot might explain why he thinks the NHS is reformable. He knows nothing about countries which have better systems (and in the developed world, that may well be all of them). He might try taking a look at Singapore.

But at the end of the day, Robinson has provided a valuable service, by publicising the state of the NHS and the waste of £27 billion which has been pumped into an organisation which is unreformed and unreformable. For this he deserves our thanks. 

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Reader Comments (1)

I've not yet seen the three episodes, though I did record them... so I guess I'll watch them when I want to watch some TV and (as usual) can't find anything worth watching!
Jan 11, 2007 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaw Carrot

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