When there’s a big bill coming up, like the Health and Social Care Bill, progressing in stately fashion through its committee stages in the Commons at the moment, there are numerous briefings and meetings organised to hear the views of the various groups of ‘stakeholders’ who may be affected by the bill. Baroness Thornton, an opposition spokesman on health and former government spokesman in the Lords, has organised a series of meetings for peers from all sides of the House about the HSCBill. Perhaps not surprisingly we have heard more from those who don’t like the Bill than those who do!
Yesterday afternoon we had presentations from three Presidents of medical Royal Colleges- Mr John Black from the Surgeons, Sir Richard Thompson from the Physicians and Dr Clare Gerada from the GPs. The main message they gave us was that there is nothing much wrong with the NHS as it is, it simply needs more money. The surgeons were less worried about the Bill than the others, perhaps because they are more used to changes but the others didn’t have a good word for it. Lord Warner pointed out that there had been a 30% uplift in funding in the past 15 years that had made some improvements but had done little to improve productivity nor outcomes. Productivity is difficult to measure in many specialities (but not that difficult) and international comparisons of outcomes are dodgy because of the problem of comparing apples and oranges from data collected in different ways. BUT again, it’s not too difficult to make comparisons about stroke outcomes, cancer survival rates, rates of cardiac treatment and many other rates where we do not do well enough yet.
Given the recent Ombudsman’s report about the quality of care for older people, which everyone acknowledges is poor/ disgraceful in many NHS hospitals, and the lack of improvement we have seen with massive investment, I find the idea that the NHS does not need to change difficult to accept. Could it be that doctors have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo? (A doctor speaks!)