Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Won't Our Leaders Tackle the NHS Disease? in Fine Health: Val Gooding Has Seen Bupa's Turnover Boom under Her Leadership

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Won't Our Leaders Tackle the NHS Disease? in Fine Health: Val Gooding Has Seen Bupa's Turnover Boom under Her Leadership

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS BLACKHURST

AS I consider this week's Budget I'm struck by a profound sense ofdepression.

Not about the contents of the offeringalthough they will be bad enoughbut by the blinkered, frozen nature of politics in this country.

If Gordon Brown and David Cameron want to be seen to be caring, what do theydo? They're either photographed in a primary school classroom or they'retalking to patients and nurses on a hospital ward. It's cynical and frankly,sick-making.

They both say how much they love the National Health Service when it suitsthem, yet they're also the first to bemoan its problems. But they do absolutelysod all to solve them.

Alistair Darling will doubtless say to Labour backbench cheers that around [pounds sterling]90billion a year is going into the NHS, putting the UK on a par with otherEuropean nations in terms of healthcare provision.

He will also say, and his minions will stress, just how committed theGovernment remains to exacting value for the taxpayer.

Yet for all this spending, there is little commensurate gain. Waiting lists aredown but the NHS suffers from chronic exhaustionfor all the Government bluster, there is never a marked improvement in itscondition.

The solution is that we should pay a lot more. But for political parties thathave staked their reputations on not being seen to raise taxes, that is justtoo awful to contemplate.

So we stagger on, from one year to the next, stumbling from one crisis in thehealth service to another.

I found myself thinking on this last week with Val Gooding, chief executive ofBupa. Val is retiring in May after 10 years running the UK's largest privatehealthcare provider.

Its results are due to be published tomorrow and, judging by her mood, theyshould be excellent.

When she arrived, Bupa had a turnover of [pounds sterling]1.2 billion and employed 10,000people. Today, it's up to around [pounds sterling]4.5 billion with 45,000 staff (andbusinessmodel students please note, it's a mutual). …

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