I took an active decision to limit the number of postings on NHS reforms recently as I was worried I would start to bore my readers (and myself) as I tried to unravel the fact from the fiction and unbiased judgement from personal opinion. I thought I would enjoy my own version of ‘listen, pause, reflect and improve’.
I had no idea that the News International hacking scandal would provide me with a welcome diversion and potentially rich seam of material. Who could have thought that the dishonest and illegal activities of a bunch of (in my opinion) seedy and amoral perpetrators could be seen as light relief compared to the current state of the Health and Social Care Bill?
But where are the rights and wrongs on NHS Reform? There remains an uncomfortable lack of clarity. Still under discussion, each day a new list of submissions and comments regarding the amendments to the Bill is published. These include contributions from bodies such as the Royal College of Surgeons, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and National Voices (a patient advocacy organisation). Many of these submissions feature statements of support for the revisions to the Bill, mostly tempered with additional recommendations or reservations.
Today, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) submitted their comments which make very interesting reading. Included is a survey of their members where 85% of respondents stated that they were not reassured by the planned amendments to the Bill. Over 50% disagreed that the revised model of clinical commissioning groups would lead to a patient led NHS, improve patient outcomes or reduce health inequalities. Conversely, the body of the RCGP response includes the phrase: ‘We welcome placing General Practitioners (GPs) at the heart of planning services for their patients, and increasing professional and patient involvement in health service design and funding decisions…’
Likewise with statistics on the current state of the NHS. The Guardian website (http://www.guardian.co.uk/) datablog has outlined some fascinating discrepancies on statistics – all true, but presenting a very different message. The Guardian quotes
Health Secretary - ‘Waiting times have been kept low, with the average time patients wait for their operations lower’. Closer inspection of statistics shows that the number of patients waiting in excess of 4 hours in Accident and Emergency has increased by 76% and that an extra 2,400 patients every month are waiting for more than 18 weeks for treatment compared to last year. Lansley, UK
What does all this conflicting evidence and opinion mean? Time, and hopefully statistics, will tell. The listening exercise and Future Forum consultation process has had a positive effect in forcing the government to amend some of the reform plans. But what happens as the Bill proceeds through parliament and on to the House of Lords continues to challenge commentators and those tasked with implementing the changes.
Give me a good old fashioned scandal any day…..