Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Cameron and the NHS quickie

I've put my finger on why Cameron's "the NHS is safe in our hands" speech sounded a bit odd: he said "Under a Conservative government, the NHS will remain free at the point of need" - not, as is traditional, "at the point of use".

There's a subtle difference there, but potentially an important one. If you started fining the time-wasters, hypochondriacs and people who fail to show up for appointments with doctors, dentists etc., and stopped paying for or subsidising costly but not entirely necessary surgery (for example - off the top of my head - the fitting of dental braces, which are themselves subsidised), you may be able to save a modest amount of money while simultaneously making the service more efficient by discouraging misallocation of resources.

Is this what Cameron is intending? The disapproval of the NHS subsiding private treatments is a vague indication that it might be.

Or am I talking absolute bollocks?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Sharon said...

Prosecuting them would probably cost more than it would raise. (Imagine the costs of the expert witnesses to prove a) someone's a hypochondriac and b) whether hypochondria is or isn't an illness...) Come to think of it, the only people who'd be prosecuted successfully would be people who couldn't afford to pay a lawyer. And they probably couldn't pay the fines either.

1/04/2006 10:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Dan said...

I wouldn't take anything out of Cameron's mouth as important or intended, to be honest. He's still doing his Blairist inspired speeches where he can throw out initiatives and ideas from memory, so naturally works like 'use' and 'need' will get mixed up. And if the devious changing of words was intentional, then that's just crap- I'd rather Cameron be specific for the first time since become leader.

1/05/2006 12:03:00 am  
Anonymous Tony said...

Sharon,
Prosecuting is, of course, a non starter. And the medical profession has always been reluctant to handle the fines inposed when punters miss appointments or the like. Too much bureaucracy. I'm sure there's a difference twixt use and need, but for the life of me my post Christmas brain ain't engaged enuf yet.
t

1/05/2006 12:39:00 pm  
Blogger strangely rouge said...

As with Blair:

'We want more people in University'(without extra funding through taxation only possible with loans & Student debt)

'we want to reduce emissions'(leave it so late to act we have to go with nuclear power)

Telling people what they want, but not how it'll be acheived is how New Labour gets elected. Cameron has learned from the best and as such we won't know what he's whittering on about until he's elected. No doubt there'll be a independent review into the NHS's future once he's in offering same old Tory solutions

1/05/2006 04:18:00 pm  
Blogger Jonn Elledge said...

The spiralling costs of the NHS as procedures and medicines become available that weren't even envisioned in the late 1940s is one of those issues that I suspect all politicians would like to do something about, but noone dares say anything because it's the NHS and you never - ever - touch the NHS. Cameron could conceivably be proposing to try and work out a way of limiting demand for unnecessary or unaffordable treatments, while ensuring that the important ones stay free.

On the other hand, this sounds too good to be true, and I'm inclined to agree with those who reckon he's just saying what people want to hear rather than actually describing any policies.

1/05/2006 09:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Tom P said...

Hmmm. My suspicion (if it's anything more than just trying to make tired language seem a little subliminally fresher) is that it ties into the emerging trend for giving public service provision over to third sector/private sector hybrids. Cuddly PPP, if you will. I'd imagine the idea is that they would have obligations to provide certain mandatory requirements free of charge, but then would be at liberty to charge what they wanted for anything else. So, as you suggested, you'd pay for "non-essential services", you'd pay if you've cancelled the appointment you were given, you'd pay if you failed to change to a healthier lifestyle, whatever. It's a way round the problems of prosecution (or any other post-facto money retrieval method) and maintaining a public service appearance whilst generating revenue, cutting waiting lists and being able to plausibly deny that you were privatising the NHS.

Or something. I dunno. It's late.

1/06/2006 03:10:00 am  

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