The creation of the National Health Service marked a new era for health provision in Britain, but the fortress that surrounds the NHS is misplaced. A national, centralised system of healthcare works for tackling major diseases on a large scale. It does not work in responding to the complex personal needs of of patients presenting a wide variety of conditions. In order to deal with today's issues, we need major health service reform.
Despite massive advances in equipment and medicines, the NHS remains trapped in the dark ages. It is completely over-regulated and recent increases in funding have been immediately matched by further falls in productivity. Bed shortages, lack of resources and poor staff morale have also resulted in increasing number of negligence claims, as procedures go wrong, and Hospital Acquired Infections alone cause some 5,000 deaths per annum.
The NHS is also having to battle against a pandemic of diseases brought about by smoking, alcohol, obesity, poor nutrition and lack of personal fitness. Our proposals on personal responsibility are also geared to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles and turn away from excessive dependence on drugs as the solution to all health problems.
A package for reform
The condition of the NHS can best be described as terminal and there are much more effective ways to fund and deliver healthcare. Under our proposals, everyone would have their own health insurance policy, purchased via their Lifetime Account. All holders of Lifetime Accounts would be entitled to health insurance, irrespective of their current health. Personal health policies would be valid overseas for emergency treatment and for essential procedures not available within a reasonable timescale within the UK.
This means that government will have no need for any direct involvement in health care provision, other than to fund A & E and maternity services.
Free health care will continue with hospitals being paid by insurers when they have successfully completed treatments rather than by the present block grant. Hospitals will thus have an incentive to treat more patients and to treat them better.
Hospitals and health care centres meeting minimum criteria may establish themselves as independent trusts or may opt for private investment. Charges for particular treatments may vary between hospitals. However, hospitals will have an incentive to be efficient in their use of resources as their fees will have to be competitive. However, it is important to recognise that hospitals will also be competing on quality. This is already happening overseas where privately operated hospitals make a profit and achieve standards that our NHS managers can only dream about.
NHS hospitals would be encouraged to join up with others to develop particular specialities and maximise their use of resources. The government would be responsible for monitoring hospital standards and ensuring that fair practice and pricing is maintained in health care provision.
The government would continue to be partially responsible for funding medical training via the normal higher education routes. However, the New Party has also identified a mechanism under our education proposals whereby we will be able to increase the number of medical professionals in training by the targeted use of scholarships.
Prevention is better than cure
The burden on our health services could be greatly reduced if we all adopted healthier lifestyles. Under our proposals everyone would be given a natural incentive to look after their personal health by insurance companies competing for their business. Although participating companies would have to issue cover on demand they would also be able to compete for additional business by offering cash rebates or other benefits to those prepared to adhere to healthy lifestyles.
All healthcare providers will be required to give guidance on staying healthy and schools will also be required to teach personal healthcare. We will introduce proper standards of nutrition in all publicly-financed institutions. Schools, hospitals, prisons, universities and government bodies will be required to comply with a new code of practice on proper food preparation. The New Party will promote a major programme of education on the risks of alcohol abuse and recreational drug abuse. We will also promote, through education and research, viable alternatives to the health service's excessive dependence on drugs.
Limiting the compensation culture
Medical negligence claims presently cost the NHS over £500 million per annum with billions more in the pipeline waiting to be heard. Cases often drag on for years, adding to the agony of those who have already suffered as a result of negligence. At present the access to remedy is in strict proportion to the funds available for legal aid.
The New Party would introduce a fast track mediation service to clear up this enormous backlog and to prevent the legal sector prolonging people’s misfortunes. Complaints against individual hospitals, clinics and GP services will be dealt with by a panel with the power to make awards, discipline staff or, in serious enough cases, grant leave for legal proceedings to be instituted.
rsquo;s misfortunes. Complaints against individual hospitals, clinics and GP services will be dealt with by a panel with the power to make awards, discipline staff or, in serious enough cases, grant leave for legal proceedings to be instituted.