mainly macro: Is this the right way to shrink the state (NHS edition)?


Before you get into Simon Wren-Lewis’s words, please take a look at the graph.

This Writer spent a frustrating series of emails trying to persuade the Powers That Be at the BBC that the Conservative-led Coalition Government had reduced real-terms spending on the NHS.

Despite the fact that I supported my claim with verifiable statistical information – and graphs – Auntie wasn’t having a bit of it and was determined that spending had, in fact, risen.

For that reason, This Writer is absolutely delighted to see the graph and the article that accompanies it.

For reasons that are well known, the share of spending on health pretty well everywhere has been rising steadily since WWII. Try to reverse that and you get a crisis. Try to reverse that when you are also slashing local authority spending for community help, so that elderly patients cannot be discharged into local authority care, and you get a major crisis.

But that is not the only sign of incompetence. Under the coalition Cameron undertook a massive reorganisation of the NHS, which was badly conceived and used up precious resources. (Perhaps the biggest political failure of the Liberal Democrats in coalition was to allow this reorganisation to go through: see this Institute for Government report aptly titled ‘Never Again?’) Then before the last election the Conservatives thought it would be a clever strategy to establish a ‘7-day a week’ health service. To try and justify that policy, health minister Jeremy Hunt made dodgy use of data to argue that health outcomes were worse if you were admitted to hospital at the weekend. Did no one tell him that this might lead some to do themselves harm by trying to delay going into hospital?
There is no money to fund this new policy, so Hunt has tried to restructure junior doctors contracts to pay for it. With many junior doctors already leaving the UK to work overseas, this was the last straw and they have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike. (Watch this video if you think picking this fight is clever politics.) In 2012 training places for nurses were cut, so now hospitals have to use more expensive agency nurses. All this indicates basic incompetence by those who ultimately are responsible for the NHS.
It was this kind of thing that I had in mind when I wrote: “It is difficult to know which is worse: duplicity to achieve an ideological goal or pursuing that goal incompetently.”

Source: mainly macro: Is this the right way to shrink the state (NHS edition)?

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