Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Disillusioned doctors say Labour decade of reform has failed NHS

Most doctors believe that Labour has failed to reform the NHS and that funding by taxation alone will not improve the quality of care. An online poll of more than 3,000 doctors carried out for The Times offers the most striking picture yet of the level of disillusionment within the profession. Most say that the billions of pounds injected into the service since 2002 have not been well spent and that services have not improved.

Faith in Labour's ability to put it right is rock-bottom. Nearly twice as many doctors would trust the NHS with David Cameron, the Opposition Leader, than with Gordon Brown, though a larger number trust neither of them.

The poll, carried out by doctors.net, Britain's busiest medical website, shows a profession disillusioned with central control, angered by the growth of bureaucracy, and deeply sceptical of initiatives such as the 20 billion pound IT system. Even more worrying for Labour, more than two fifths of the 3,092 doctors who responded are young, having graduated since 2000. More than half of respondents (56 per cent) said that there had been no improvement in the NHS since 2002, when the Government increased funding. Only 27 per cent thought there had been. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) did not believe that the extra money had been well spent, while 11 per cent said that it had. Similar views were held on the quality of care: 72 per cent said that there had been no improvement; 15 per cent said that there had been.

In a surprisingly strong rejection of the Government's belief that taxation is the only way to pay for the NHS, 79 per cent of respondents doubted that the highest standards expected of the NHS could be sustained through taxation alone after 2008, when the huge annual increases in funding will drop off.

Neil Bacon, who launched doctors.net in 1999, was not surprised by the results of the survey. "Doctors support the NHS, but they have a great deal of concern that the underlying problems are not being addressed," he said. Mark Porter, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants' committee, said: "The results of this survey are disturbing and give a snapshot view of how demoralised and frustrated some doctors are feeling. "It is of major concern that a majority of respondents to this survey are saying that they do not believe the NHS has improved since 2002 and that they do not think the increase in NHS expenditure has been well spent. It is also worrying that so many of them say they plan to retire early. "The survey also reveals a deep anxiety among doctors about what will happen after 2008, when the rate of increased funding is due to end. "It is tragic that the Government has used so much of the increased expenditure on wasteful initiatives like independent sector treatment centres and PFI. The private sector has certainly done well out of the increased funding."

Andrew Haldenby, of the think-tank Reform, which wants funding of the NHS to be opened up, said that he was heartened by the degree of support doctors had shown for the idea. "The real issue is whether the tax model can work. This poll requires all the politicians to rethink their positions," he said. "This poll suggests very strongly that at least part of the medical community has been taking notice, and it is particularly interesting that so many younger doctors have contributed."


Contaminated blood inquiry

An independent public inquiry is to be held into the supply to haemophiliacs of contaminated NHS blood The Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell, a former Solicitor-General, is to conduct the inquiry after a campaign by Lord Morris of Manchester, president of the Haemophilia Society and a former Minister for the Disabled, who said that 1,757 haemophilia patients who were exposed to HIV and/or hepatitis C-contaminated NHS blood and blood products had died since being infected. "Many more are now terminally ill," the peer claimed.

Lord Morris said that, of 4,670 such patients exposed to hepatitis C, 1,243 were also exposed to HIV and that, notwithstanding improvements in treatments, only 2,552 patients with hepatitis C and 361 with HIV were still alive. The situation has been described by Professor Lord Winston as "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS".



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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