Public officials do know how to stoke the age old UK debate about “inadequate funding”. This week the media is alive with claims that the NHS will run out of money if it is not given large real increases to cater for rising demand and increasingly costly treatments.
Private sector industries never debate like this. You do not hear leaders of the mobile phone and smart phone industry on tv demanding higher allocations of future individual budgets to comunications, or threatening a shortage of capacity if prices do not rise. We used to have capacity and service quality problems with phones when we had a nationalised monopoly service, but have solved most of these by competition, choice and private capital. The changes to the range and types of service delivered, and the cost reductions owing to better technology and productivity have been stunning.
It is true that the UK is wedded to the admirable principle that health care should be provided according to need, with much of it provided free at the point of provision. We pay for our health care over our lives, paying more in when we are healthy and successful, and less in when we are not. No main political party wishes to change this approach.
What we need from the officials who help Ministers lead and grow this crucial national service is constructive advice and help on how to adapt and develop the service, not screaming headlines of future crises imagined if more taxpayer money is not forthcoming. As we develop our NHS model, we need to ensure that it can embrace the innovation and productivity improvements that we rely on to keep the bills down in successful private services,without having to confont Granny with a bill when she visits the GP or hospital. I intend to look at ways to boost income , improve quality and performance and increase productivity over the next few days, without resiling from the popular underlying principle of “free” healthcare for all.