Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Phyric Patricia? - new NHS figures

The good news: the NHS is in the black, the bad news: Patricia Hewitt is still employed and dictating health care policy, though, happily, I think her days (in the role) are numbered...

Last year's cutbacks were recognised as a necessary expedient. State health care was springing deficits all over the shop and Hewitt threatened to resign if she could not pull the monolithic service out of debt. Well done Ms Hewitt - wards have closed nationwide, minimum waiting times are imposed on patients, around 25,000 staff have lost their jobs and we can't pay our nurses or even employ our doctors - but its a victory for government penny pinchers.

The NHS was £547m in deficit last year. Now it looks to have gleaned a £500m surplus (official figures due next month). Though I have to ask whether the loss of jobs and resources will prove worth it. Do we all feel the health service is running better (if at a slightly cheaper rate)? The doctors don't. It'll be interesting to see how Ms Hewitt's sucessor deals with Department PR.

The medical profession - understaffed and underpaid - is unimpressed. The acting chairman of the BMA, Sam Everington, believes recent cutbacks, "have impacted adversely on patient care." Right, so we've saved a bit of money but service has suffered.

But the squeeze is still on and hospitals who have made hefty cutbacks are unable to claw back some of the underspend. Instead they are being asked to make more savings to help compensate for less economical counterparts. What a hoot.

A spokesman for the Department of Health explained the difficulty of breaking even: "Trying to balance the books perfectly is like landing a jumbo jet on a postage stamp. It's hard to come in bang on zero."

Mm...jumbo jets are quite good at landing in the right place, their pilots know the flightplan and their onboard computers tend to work....What a silly analogy. I think we'd all like a bit of sanity along with some solvency.

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