Here come the cuts?

The NHS and the health of the nation.

As sick as a parrot?As sick as a parrot?
So NHS Direct is no more. The service was switched off at the end of last week. It was, in conceptual terms, pure Nulabour and came home from the maternity ward, if you see what I mean, in mid-1998. Being pure Nulabour in manner it tinkered with, but did not solve, a number of problems that were spun out of all proportion to justify its creation. So why did they do it? Well first we admit that Nulabour are obsessed with health 'issues'. So much so that it would, under normal circumstances, warrant a course of treatment for a gross psychological disorder. However, there is method in their madness. For while no sane person would wish the health of the nation to decline, the NHS is an ideal tool to use in the creation of a dependency culture. Then, and upon that, can a whole way of managing society be founded.

The Labour Party, in both old and new forms, sees itself as the owner of the NHS. Set up in 1946 you might have thought that anything so old would have been the target of Tony Blair and his messianic reforming zeal. But following the collapse of industry in the UK it's in the NHS that the trade union movement has its power base. This by virtue of the fact that the NHS employs about 1.4 million workers and a very high proportion of them union members. Now Blair may have said some rather pointed things about the trade unions in public but it was just that, another of his absurdly over stage-managed pronouncements. For Blair, like the whole of his party, knew that this power base had to kept more onside than in check.

But although the political left in the UK are obsessed with defending the NHS the actual health of the nation is a cause for concern, obesity for example will cost not just the individuals involved but the entire nation a huge and perhaps unaffordable sum of money. The idea that central government policy can, effortlessly, 'do something' about this does not stand scrutiny if you recall how government 'dealt' with swine flu. And yet all governments, the Nucoalition is no exception, seem to think the cure for the nations many ills is to commit yet more money to the NHS, regardless of the outcome.

So will NHS Direct be missed? It would seem no. Few people are ready to speak up on its behalf (see footnote below). It was set up because of 'concerns' about people who did not have access to 'services'. The official aim of NHS Direct?

Stated by the government in the NHS White Paper, The New NHS, was "to provide people at home with easier and faster advice and information about health, illness, and the NHS, so that they are better able to care for themselves and their families"

All well and good you might say, but, it turned out, this was just fluff. The question never answered was "will the people NOT registered with a GP use it"? It would seem they did not. After all the reason you go to a GP is you are ill, some people are naturally in good health most of the time. And the reason you choose not to register with a GP? Well that's up to you, is it not? Also to cite 'easier and faster advice and information' suggests that the civil servants who wrote the NHS White Paper were aware of the slow and poor service provided by some GPs. This is where reform awaits.

So who did use NHS Direct? It would seem the same people who clog up their GP's waiting room, when they have the time, the same people who also clog up Hospital Accident and Emergency Departments. One of the busiest times for A&E is at weekends when the binge drinkers and sports and leisure activities injuries come in. So what is needed is a new approach to personal care and the means to pay for it. That's the real reform, it's needed to save money and make the nation healthier and more self reliant.

Footnote
It has been said that each call made to NHS Direct cost £25 to answer - and that many GPs were in favour of its abolition. However, it now seems an alternative service will be introduced, and how much will that cost?

Finally here is someone speaking up on behalf of NHS Direct. HEALTH WARNING! This clip contains John Prescott. Who in tandem with the BBC seems to be leading the 'fight back', are we surprised? Just listen to the man ramble on uninterrupted!