13 March 2006
The NHS Fast Track scheme

Last week, on his BBC programme, Sweeney Investigates, John Sweeney was looking into the government's Fast Track programme. This is the scheme in which NHS patients are treated by outside contractors. Sweeney, reckoned they weren't doing a very good job. Although he didn't say it in as many words the implication was that private enterprise can't deliver health care.

My take:
  • It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if there were all sorts of problems with this scheme. However, it would be wrong to think that this undermines the case for the free market

So, what sorts of things were going on?
Botched operations caused by surgeons brought in from abroad who didn't know what they were doing because they were unfamiliar with the language, procedures and equipment and, in some cases, hadn't been screened properly

How can this not undermine the case for the free market?
  • the thing being examined is not a free market; it's an example of contracting out (or out-sourcing as it is sometimes known). They are not the same thing even if they both get tagged with the same "private" label. In a free market the supplier is paid by the customer. Under contracting out the supplier is paid by the state which gets its money - lest we forget - by force. I am in favour of the free market but because I am against force I am also against contracting out.
  • the private ie real free market sector, is still very good.
What makes you think that the private sector is still very good?
The thing that really does it for me is NHS Blog Doctor. He is an NHS GP who blogs. He tells everyone he knows to take out private medical insurance. As he says:
When I started as a doctor, I could genuinely say to patients that they really did not need private health insurance. Better bed and breakfast perhaps, but the NHS still delivered. Now I tell people to keep up their BUPA payments whatever the cost. Sell your daughters into the slave trade if necessary, but do not forgo private medical insurance.
That's one hell of a recommendation

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