Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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This mildly absurd plan made me smile this evening:
The health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, today signalled that NHS hospitals face the possibility of closure if they fail to attract sufficient numbers of patients.
Speaking at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham in her first public address as the newly appointed health secretary, Ms Hewitt echoed her predecessor, John Reid, by saying it was possible that some services could close if patients deserted them.
So any departments that don’t attract a critical number of patients will be closed? Surely this means that there will no longer be treatment available on the NHS for anything rare…
“Hi doc, I think I was bitten by a deadly spider on my holidays, and now I’ve turned a perculiar colour and my heart is failing”
“Sorry, can’t help, not enough people have that problem”
And will we see doctors inflicting obscure injuries, in order that their speciality be saved?
Another ill-thought out plan…
Fears around NHS service closures circle around the introduction of a new NHS funding system, Payment by Results, whose roll out coincides with the expansion of patient choice. Under the new financial arrangements, money follows patients more directly, with treatments paid to hospitals – whether in the NHS or the private sector – according to a set of national tariffs (standard price).
This means that if far fewer patients choose a certain hospital, an NHS trust could face a dramatic loss of funds, leading to possible closure.
So a minor surgery clinic, specialising in ingrowing toenails which presumably get only a small tarriff will no longer have the funding to hire a receptionist and have the heating on in the winter, because it doesn’t attract the huge money that goes to the big transplant centre down the road.
Whilst clearly batty, Patricia Hewitt does fit rather more comfortably in the role of Health Secretary than did John Reid. At least now you can have a concerned looking softly spoken minister saying “I’m terribly sorry, we can’t do that for you” instead of a rather less comforting man yelling “No, I won’t fix you, and there was no need to ask me in that tone of voice.”
All we need now is an appropriate and competent minister. When’s the next election?