We pay £1,900 a year for the NHS: we deserve better than this

November 12, 2013 2:50 PM

Staff at Colchester General Hospital have been forced into covering up delays to treatment for cancer patients in order to hit nationally set targets. Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission visited the Trust in August and September after finding inaccuracies in waiting time data and being bombarded with complaints. They claim to have found "serious concerns" over the treatment of cancer patients.

In recent months the NHS has come under fire in the Keogh Review, which revealed that potentially 13,000 patients may have died unnecessarily across 14 trusts including Colchester. Colchester was one of three trusts that avoided being placed in special measures at the time, but following the shocking revelations, the CQC has recommended it be moved into this category.

The NHS costs every taxpayer an average of £1,900 every year. Scandals like this undermine trust in our doctors and nurses. You really do have to wonder at the audacity of a system that encourages managers to cover up failures rather than improve patient care.

depending on the measure, the NHS is the world's fifth biggest employer (the US Department of Defence and the Chinese People's Liberation Army are the biggest). But a significant number of staff are employed on duties other than patient care. Over the last 20 years the health service has increasingly been subject to centrally-set targets on patient care, waiting lists, and bed space. The idea was that targets would drive up standards, but as the Colchester example proves, meeting targets does not necessarily mean better patient care and can put lives at risk. More paperwork means more bureaucrats, more pressure on staff to hit impossible targets, and the manipulation of data for political ends.

We desperately need a healthcare system that offers us real value for money. As it stands, the NHS wastes too much money and is too centralised. Evidence shows that choice and competition drive up standards. Our 2011 report Wasting Lives compared the NHS to European peers and the results are startling.

We need real patient choice in our hospitals instead of targets and central government control.

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