I think it's quite lovely that Jackie Ashley of The Guardian has been able to see the future of the NHS. Not just that, she says that it works!
It's in a sprawling house in Twickenham, west London, housing a staff of 30 in former bedrooms. It doesn't look much like the future of healthcare in Britain, but at a time when the debate rages about NHS charges, privatisation and scarce resources, this organisation could provide part of the answer.
Excellent, so what is it that they're doing? Well, there's a charity which provides some health care that the NHS doesn't, or which it provides not very well. They get some cash from the NHS itself, some from various people who think they're doing good stuff and none at all from patients. So, free at the point of use health care but not being provided by the monolith of the NHS. You know, just like hospices which most agree do a pretty good job as well.
So now here's the rub. How is INS financed, and how can it be spread nationwide? Its founding principle is that treatment is free to all of those who need it. It receives £250,000 a year from the NHS, and the salary of the chief executive, Ann Bond, and one of the two fundraisers are paid from the Big Lottery fund. As it happens, the charity's contract comes up for renewal in a year's time. If Big Lottery doesn't renew this funding it would be a big mistake.
Excellent we could say.
At the core of this success story is flexibility – what the patients want. There is no talk of outcomes, waiting times, service provision and the rest of the NHS jargon. Above all, there is no talk of profit. Profit is the last thing that would motivate staff – their reward is seeing the progress of their patients, and in simply continuing, year on year, to provide that help. This is absolutely not a privatised service, unlike Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, run by Circle group. INS started from the bottom – two therapists who saw a desperate need in the community. It has been nurtured by the local community, with many volunteers helping to raise funds. Ultimately, it will only be sustained by NHS contracts, lottery money and community spirit. Surely, until the great British public is prepared to pay high enough taxes to fund the NHS properly, it is part of the future.
Well, actually, it's exactly what the current reforms of the NHS management system are trying to encourage. Other providers, whether charitable, for profit, even state owned, offer services which are then paid for by the tax take that funds the NHS. Allowing exactly this sort of experimentation outside the centralised management structures of that NHS.