Call For An Independent NHS

Wednesday May 23th 2007

The NHS should be taken out of the political domain altogether, and run by an independent board, according to the Adam Smith Institute.  A YouGov poll taken on the subject shows massive popular support for precisely such a proposal, with 69 percent in favour and only 12 percent against.

The Institute's new Briefing Paper, Depoliticizing the NHS, published today, documents the bewildering and counter-productive range of political initiatives and interference which has wreaked such havoc on our nation's healthcare system.

"Politicians tend to think that the can improve the health service by simply giving orders, or setting targets. But such measures always have perverse effects, distorting clinical priorities and encouraging creative accounting."

The Briefing Paper highlights the shocking fact that "an answer to a parliamentary question revealed that 85% of the money spent by the government on new hospitals had been spent in Labour constituencies. Meanwhile, as hospitals and clinics close all over the country, the health secretary has been accused of intervening to prevent the closure of hospitals in Labour marginal seats." This, says the Institute, is a sign of something seriously wrong.

The Institute's proposal is for a distinguished panel of health professionals to be appointed to run the NHS, to allocate its budget, determine its priorities, and operate it according to medical needs rather than political aims.

"The panel should be appointed by the government after a period of consultation with various divisions of the medical profession to identify people whose professional standing and distinction commands widespread respect."

The NHS budget would be set by Parliament every five years, and up-rated each year in line with inflation.  The ASI's YouGov poll showed that this idea, too, enjoys widespread popular support, with 74 percent in favour.  The suggestion that "the NHS has become a political football" receives 72 percent backing.  The ASI points out that:

"It is not just the public that supports this kind of reform - the British Medical Association recently declared themselves in favour of an independently run NHS and Gordon Brown, the next prime minister, is said to be interested in the idea."

The Conservatives, too, are reportedly looking at ways to distance the NHS from political control and interference. " With support from the public, the medical profession, and from across the political divide, this is an idea whose time has come. The nation's healthcare is far too important to be left any longer in the hands of politicians," the report concludes.

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