The equipment used by the Health Service is privately produced. The medicines are privately provided. The hospitals are privately built.
That alone – in addition to the fact school materials are privately published, roads are privately constructed, key public sector recruitment is privately delivered – should tell us what an absolute nonsense our politicians’ obsession with ‘privatisation’ of our Health Service is.
Politicians, particularly in Northern Ireland (but also notably in Scotland and Sweden currently), are experts at trying to pull the wool over our eyes by taking a stand on something they can’t deliver or focusing on something they know to be irrelevant to draw our attention away from the issues they could affect but aren’t competent enough to deal with. Yet again we see them failing completely to capture the key issues around Health (and indeed Welfare) Reform, while at the same time frothing at the mouth about “privatisation” in health care.
This would indeed be a scandal if it turned out that contracted private provision were actually costing more than public provision would. Self-evidently, however, it is costing less – otherwise it wouldn’t be contracted. The public sector doesn’t produce health equipment, or provide (and research) medicines, or build hospitals (or for that matter schools or roads etc) precisely because it would be more expensive and less efficient (generally – there are exceptions, particularly the dreadful PFIs). The reason is that the private sector can research and thus deliver specific, advanced, innovative expertise well beyond that provided by the public sector because the private sector can take risks while developing and researching this expertise that the public sector can’t. There is no particular reason that health care provision would be any different. That is why many countries have it – including right-wing hotbeds like Sweden and Denmark (where even the ambulances are private).
It is noteworthy also that the concern in this “debate” is not the patient (for not once has anyone suggested patients are receiving inferior care or placed in greater danger by private provision) and far less the taxpayer (who is receiving greater value). Oh no, we hear nonsense about “the private sector is only in it for the profit” – ignoring of course the point that public sector workers receive higher salaries and pensions, one of the likely reasons that private sector provision is better value and more efficient for the taxpayer. (One correspondent even condemned the notion of trying to provide services “on the cheap” – as if that’s a bad thing!)
What is happening here is a nonsensical and hypocritical “sector wars” approach which attempts to pull the wool over our eyes to protect a system which is bureaucratic, inefficient and expensive. Laughably, this is presented as “protecting the NHS”!
In fact, to “protect the NHS” (i.e. a Health and Social Care Service free at point of access which provides quality provision without an unbearable burden on the taxpayer) it will become increasingly important to shift to less bureaucratic, more efficient, more cost-effective means of service delivery. Unlike politicians who are actually endangering the Service with their hypocritical bluster, I don’t care which sector provides that as long as it is ultimately accountable – and, if you really care about the principles of the NHS, nor should you.