Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Taylor-Gooby

The politics season has begun again with the party conferences.

Time to think about what the parties' polices are, and in the case of the Labour Party, what they are actually doing. This has direct effects on all of us.

I am concerned about what is happening to our public services, particularly because the majority of the public are not aware of it and may wake up one morning to find changes have happened which they neither voted for nor expected to happen.

These are changes which once made will be difficult to reverse. They need to be analysed and discussed.

Although the Labour Party won the last election, we did take a big hit from the Tories on waste in the public services, particularly the NHS. Additional funds, paid for out of higher taxes, would not improve public services, but go instead into pay rises and increased bureaucracy was the argument. The trouble is many people believe this, at least in part, and can often find some evidence to justify it. All bureaucracies tend to expand themselves unless they are kept under proper control.

So the Government has introduced the Gershon Review to reduce bureaucracy and has committed itself to reducing management costs in the NHS by 15%. Nothing wrong with that, you might think. Nor would many people object to patient choice, provided it can be properly administered.

This means people have an alternative to poor service, and ordinary people, not just the rich, can choose where they have their treatment. The only worry is that it might increase, rather than reduce, administration. Not all of us have the faith in IT systems to make everything work properly.

So far so good. But what comes next. To deliver "Patient Choice" local Primary Care Trusts have to be merged into big ones, local government and community representation on the Trust Boards substantially reduced, and the Trusts become "commissioners", rather than direct providers, of services. I can imagine that most people will not have a clue what this means. Well it means that the close relationships built up with local authorities to deliver public health will be broken up, that PCT Boards will no longer be accountable to local communities but run as businesses, and, most important of all, the staff, the district nurses and health visitors, will no longer be employed by the NHS but by "independent organisations" whatever they are. …

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