Friday, January 21, 2005

Private operations

The BBC reports on the private fast-track treatment centres that are starting to come on stream. They offer routine elective surgery to NHS patients.
Private treatment centres are taking work away from the NHS, according to health service bosses.

It is well documented that the main reason the British healthcare system is so far behind the French and German systems is the lack of private sector input. The NHS has manifestly failed to deliver effective treatment and it is right that someone else be offered the opportunity to do it better.
[Nigel Edwards, policy director of the NHS Confederation] added that it was unfair foundation trusts were barred from bidding for work being carried out by the independent treatment centres.

It would be nice if the private and public sectors could be set up in direct competition, letting the fittest survive. Experience of trying to break the private sector monopoly in telecoms in the eighties suggests, however, that the Government had no choice but to force the market open in this way. The NHS, not having shareholders to answer to, could price private providers out of the market in order to maintain their monopoly. As more centres are brought on stream the private sector should start to gain from economies of scale and innovation. This should allow them to compete against the inbuilt advantage that the public sector has in terms of incumbency and access to cheap finance.

Credit where credit is due. This is a good reform, even if it is too small, and it has taken NuLabour seven years of woffling about saving the NHS from Tory privatisation to get round to privatising it themselves.

And its a pity for me because I live in Scotland, the last country bar North Korea where socialism is seen as a valid way to run an economy, and where no such reforms have been made.