Alan Milburn's just made the argument for markets inside the NHS

This isn't quite where we'd expect this point to be coming from but it does make the case for markets in the NHS all the same. From Alan Milburn:

Technology and innovation are key to saving the NHS

Yes, OK then:

The reason is simple: the challenges facing healthcare today are different from yesterday. Perhaps more importantly, the opportunities for healthcare to do more will make them different still tomorrow.In the public debate about the NHS, the talk is much more of daunting challenges than opportunities. A sense of possibility is missing. Yet the world is on the verge of a huge leap forward in healthcare, driven by advances in knowledge and technology.


All these big changes are under way. They will accelerate in the years to come. The question policymakers should focus on is how to harness them to improve the health of the nation. That will mean making big changes to the NHS, not just putting in more cash.

We agree entirely. And then we play our party pooper trick which is to point out that we know very well what it is that fosters innovation and the use of technological advance.

No, this is not the argument about who invents something - we're quite happy to agree along with William Baumol that governments can achieve that. But we also insist, along with Baumol, that innovation, the working out what to do with the new inventions, is something that markets achieve and planned systems do not. For, of course, working out what to do with some new invention is trial and error. Well, what could be done with it? What, in reality, does it achieve? And which of those things do we want to have done? It is markets which process through all of these options iteration by iteration, planning does not.

Thus, the greater the coming wave of medical invention the more we need markets in the NHS to foster the innovation. Not that we quite expect Alan Milburn to be saying that but he should be.