£70m overspend for a shambolic service
14 Mar 2007 - JG
NHS shocker: "-Reorganisation of NHS services for patients needing medical attention outside normal working hours was shambolic and ran hugely over budget-." This is according to a cross-party committee report on one of the government's key health reforms. That headline could be shortened to describe the NHS really - "-NHS- -shambolic and ran hugely over budget-." The NHS had been getting off quite lightly from me this week given the focus on the environment, but true to form not a week goes by without some ridiculous tale of waste and poor performance comes out.
The reform gave the option for GPs to opt out of patient care in the evenings, nights and weekends and for the Primary Care Trusts to organise alternative cover. Unsurprisingly, they couldn't do it properly and it has cost us £70m as a result. The scheme also meant that GPs stop doing their Saturday surgeries and so patients got a worse service. Brilliant idea, eh? The Department of Health has spun the story that the service had improved but graciously conceded that it may have got worse in rural and inner city areas... Rural and inner city areas? That'll be most of us then?
So what did the £70m over spend get us? According to the committee: "-Only 2% of trusts met the target of answering calls within 60 seconds and only 15% could guarantee a face-to-face medical consultation within an hour for emergency cases.-" Not good enough.