Today David Cameron is answering questions on youtube, and I’m hoping that he will answer my question on the NHS:
As you can see, I’m not the most comfortable person in front of the camera- but I wanted to ask this because I don’t believe these issues have been properly addressed yet. The NHS reforms are being sold to us at the moment based on misleading figures, with no evidence that another restructure will make thing better, and to top it off it’s being done without popular support.
1) Misleading Figures
The NHS reforms are currently being justified by comparing UK health outcomes on heart attacks and cancer, with France. These arguments are totally misleading. From 1980 to 2006, the UK has had the largest fall in heart attack death rates than any other European Country– meaning that we’ll actually have fewer deaths from heart attack than France by next year. As for Cancer, the studies often quoted by newspapers and the Coalition, to try to show that the UK health system is failing are from selective studies: specifically the Eurocare study, which takes 100% of the deaths from Cancer in the UK and compares them to just 10-15% of selected centres in France. That’s hardly a fair comparison…The NHS is actually doing very well!
2) No Evidence
The Coalition Government is misleading us on the current state of the NHS. But what about their reforms? Surely there must be data supporting the dramatic restructuring they are proposing? Well, no. The closest thing we have is the historical lessons from GP fundholding in the 1990s. But we don’t have those lessons because the expensive experiment was never properly evaluated before being abandoned. If there is no evidence then the usual thing to do is run a pilot study: putting reforms into place on a small scale and comparing it’s outcomes to the current situation. The Coalition have decided to do this using “GP Pathfinders”, which at the last count covered 12.8 million people in the UK… 12.8 million people is not a pilot study. Further to that, if it goes wrong it is too big to be reversible.
The last point I have tried to make in my short question is that the people that are meant to be enthusiastically taking the most responsibility under these reforms, the GPs, don’t like it. A recent survey of over 1,800 GPs found that 70% thought that opening up the NHS to “Any Willing Provider” (i.e. private companies) would not lead to better health outcomes.
This is something that is unjustified, has no evidence and is unpopular amongst GPs…So why David Cameron, are you pressing ahead with this?