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Hewitt wants to ditch ‘unpopular’ NHS services

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 tariff 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.

Patricia Hewitt 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?

This post was filed under: Politics.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Vortigern the Voracious

    10.55, 14/05/2005

Surely a much better plan would be for hospitals to charge for all their services and those which do not make a profit, like in any good business, be discontinued.

Perhaps it is this type of market driven thinking of which this Blairite Tendency minister is thinking.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    11.27, 14/05/2005

That would certainly save the country a lot of money, but it’s not the route I’d go down: Being the cuddly, naive, ideological thinker that I am, I want healthcare available for all, free at the point of use.

As for whether Hewitt’s intentions are to start charging for care… It’s clearly not something the government as a whole are opposed to, what with their continual increases in prescription charges, dental charges, and hospital car parking charges.

Going off at a tangent… One of the hospital’s with which I’m involved has a pay-and-display car park – If I’m having a medical emergency, am I really supposed to rush to the ticket machine, dig out some change, estimate how long my visit will take, get a ticket, take it to my car, all before seeking urgent medical attention? Surely it is much more sensible to have a system of paying on exit? Or do they just like having large amounts of cash from car-park fines?

Comment from Vortigern the Voracious

    14.23, 15/05/2005

“It’s clearly not something the government as a whole are opposed”

Exactly! Showing that this is definitely a New Tory government that has been elected, that intends to introduce Thatherite market reforms to the provision (not just delivery) of health services.

As to parking lot fees, if people can go by car to hospital, it must not be an emergency, otherwise they would have called the Brandweer paramedics out for a home pickup.

And if you can afford to buy a car, you should be able to pay for hospital treatment, and most certainly for the parking lot charge, otherwise you should be on the bus or in the ambulance.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    14.33, 15/05/2005

If people can go by car to hospital, it must not be an emergency

A surprisingly high proportion of people who think they’re having a heart attack drive themselves to the hospital. Is this not an emergency? People are not as sensible as one might expect.

You should be able to pay… for the parking lot charge

‘Parking lot’ sounds rather more formal than the reality of a muddy field.

Comment from Hengist the Horrible

    17.53, 15/05/2005

“the reality of a muddy field”

If the people are going to be dead after being admitted into hospital, then all concerned are not going to be worried about providing a quality parking environment.

Dead people don’t need no asphalt parking spaces.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    19.07, 15/05/2005

But the relatives of the deceased would find the car not only in a puddle of mud, but also with a parking fine attached, as dead people are unable to feed the meter when their pay-and-display time comes to an end. The insensitivity of this leads me to maintain that it’s a bad system.

Trackback from elsewhere on the site

3rd January 2006.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » Health and choice

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9th March 2006.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » ‘Mad’ Patricia Hewitt strikes again

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9th March 2006.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » The trouble with Pat

Comment from Coire

    12.31, 01/04/2007

Simon – if you’re at JCUH again, just park in the staff car park, or the patients/visitor one during the night / weekends. They don’t check for tickets. Seems so wrong, I’m certain the company running the car park (it isn’t the NHS btw, that’s why they won’t give students passes) has more than made its money back on that patch of gravel.

I do agree the parking charges are wrong, when my Grandad was dying, Dan and I drove up from Salisbury to Bolton and arrived at silly o’clock in the morning. The last thing I wanted to think about was finding change and thinking about how long I’d be there, so I didn’t. I just thought it was really rude of them to bleed money off people like that. Luckily we didn’t get clamped. But up to £5/day?! Its wrong, and I completely disagree that if you have a car you should be able to afford that. Round here, cars can be cheaper than public transport (which only seems to run 9-5), especially if there’s a few of you.

And as for those ‘patient line’ TVs/phones – daylight robbery!!! So so so wrong. And part of the deal is that wards can no longer have their own communal TV. Not to mention how much in the way they get, the number of times you nearly smack your head on them at the end of an examination, and the lack of hygeine control….grrrrr…..If I had my way, I’d rip them all out (except in paeds cos they’re free…)

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    12.59, 01/04/2007

I’ve parked in the staff car park a few times… But it’s the principle of the thing! And don’t get me started on the fact that they don’t own the car parks… Myopically selling them off for a quick buck doesn’t seem sensible to me!

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