Headline grabbing figures, not value for money
15 May 2007 - JG
An interesting stat in today's Times: NHS funding has leapt from £35 billion when Labour took office to £92 billion in 2007-08. On the surface, I think most people would look at the basic piece of information and say well done New Labour. But as is the reality with many government interventions, the bare statistics do not tell the whole story. What has that £92bn been actually spent on?
Another interesting stat - only this time from an ICM poll back in March. 71% of those polled thought that the extra money the government has spent on public services such as health and education over the last decade was generally spent badly. A pretty damning verdict on tax and spend if ever I saw one.
What is the point on spending so much money if you are not spending it wisely? The Labour government consistently come out and tell us that the NHS is in a better state than it was in 1997 - waiting lists are down, you can see a GP far more easily, blah, blah, blah. They are missing the point. They have nearly tripled annual spending; the least you would expect is some improvement in some areas. I personally would expect there to be massive improvement for £92bn a year! But there has not been massive improvement - there has been enough improvement for Hewitt et al to spin a good story - but 71% of us can see through the spin these days. The problem is, the government has no business in the NHS. It does not understand it and it has proved this time and time again.
This leads me on to the latest waste in the NHS. The deployment of community nurses to treat the seriously ill outside hospital plan has virtually failed - with fewer than half the promised numbers in place. A pledge made three years ago to have 3,000 experienced nurses in post by March this year has been delayed, with social workers and less qualified staff having to make up the numbers looking after patients with chronic illnesses. That's right, we have unqualified social workers treating our most seriously ill because the government can not organise the NHS effectively. The policy was meant to achieve savings for the NHS; instead it is another costly failed policy.
Today Patricia Hewitt will be outlining how she (or should I say her replacement) will spend another £8bn of public money on the NHS. Expect headline grabbing promises but do not expect value for money.