By Paul Hurford
Believe it or not, Britain still has a lot of things to be proud of. High up the list is undoubtedly the National Health Service. In principle.
As we emerged from the Second World War, the newly elected Labour Party implemented the welfare reforms outlined by economist Lord Beveridge and the Ministry of Health. The result in 1948 was the National Health Service, something any Labour politician will keenly crow over. Indeed, it represents a hugely significant turning point in the wellbeing of the nation. Diseases were controlled, life expectancy increased and the average Brit began to enjoy a healthier life.
These days though, any mention of the acronym NHS triggers debates about overcapacity and waiting lists. This then extends either to the subject of immigration or just a budgetary and legislative blame game between political parties.
Some politicians and broadcasters have argued the case for charging for treatment, which is basically how dentistry works on the NHS. This is a bit of a hot potato because of the preciousness of the ‘free at the point of use’ concept which underpins the organisation. Another interesting angle to this is that hospitals already have a secondary income stream from parking fees, and shops and services onsite which pay for a premium pitch. So a typical outpatient or visitor would already part with some money during their time at the hospital.
Health Practitioners (doctors and nurses) will bemoan the trend of patients to bypass their local GP and go to Accident & Emergency with minor ailments. This means a proportion of the people in the hospital do not need to be there.
My solution? Have a GP in A&E! Each hospital could have a designated area with a duty GP (or two) who can assess the patient and, if necessary, administer the same advice and prescription that you get from your standard GP. The key differences would be that this GP surgery is open in evenings and weekends, it would be drop-in service rather than by appointment, and of course the fact it’s inside a hospital is useful for when further treatment is necessary.
So that just leaves the next part which, if it were the Health Secretary saying this, would result in a resignation by the end of the week. Charge a small fee for procedures. £10 for an X-ray, £50 for a new knee, something like that. It’s still a drop in the ocean compared to ‘going private’, and it could raise tens of millions for the Nashnul Elf.
I’m glad I’m not Health Secretary