Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Realisation dawns for Libby Purves....

...or on the other hand perhaps it doesn't.

Libby Purves' opinion piece in the Times today tells us an interesting tale of victims of the NHS trying to help themselves by taking over their local cottage hospital in order to forestall its closure.
The community wants the little hospital; the PCT’s own consultation overwhelmingly proved that, though they staunchly ignored it. So the community — which has already raised hundreds of thousands to support it — proposes to buy the hospital outright. They would issue shares — untradeable, more like a loan note — against the property value. A charitable trust would run it, reserving the right to buy the shares back gradually. It would have a contract with the PCT to provide the beds it still wants; the remaining ones would be used for new services such as dialysis, hospice care and outreach chemotherapy, which would attract income under the new NHS principle of practice-based commissioning by GPs. A decent little hospital would be saved, in a very new Labour spirit of diversity and public-private co-operation, with the more affluent gladly supporting the rest by ethical investment. Which, after all, is how the great Victorian hospitals began.
I had always put Ms Purves down as being an old school statist bleeding heart, but her enthusiasm for this little private experiment suggests that a little light has switched on somewhere in the Purves head and she has started to realise that there are alternatives to state provision.

Unfortunately she still thinks like a slave:

So far, so good. But no official has yet said “yes”, let alone “yes please!”. Watch carefully now: see whether the PCT bureaucrats impede this daring plan because it undermines their desire to show that such hospitals are not necessary, and might raise questions as to why they couldn’t run it properly themselves. See whether the Health Secretary backs it as an example of local responsibility, or whether she pretends not to notice, afraid that a successful small hospital might rock the boat nationally. See whether — if the buyout happens — the new trust gets spitefully loaded with expensive mad regulation on purpose to scupper it. Watch closely. It’s not just about Suffolk.

Someone needs to tell her that if they wait for the bureaucrats or the politicians they will wait a very long time - the officers of the state are in it for themselves.