The Telegraph reports a call by the British Medical Association for NHS independence:
"An NHS constitution should be used to free the health service from the day-to-day interference of Government ministers, doctors' representatives have claimed."
We absolutely agree. However, if you're going to make the NHS independent there are two things that you need to do at the same time:
- Decentralise. While a NHS board might have more healthcare experience it would operate from the centre, probably from Whitehall, so could quickly become out of touch with the priorities of local healthcare organisations. We should give real freedom to local organisations that can respond to the needs and circumstances of their area.
- Allow competition. An independent NHS can't mean that producers are left to spend billions of pounds without proper accountability to the public who use and fund the service. Ordinary people should be able to, through the threat of taking their business elsewhere, hold providers to account themselves. Healthcare systems in continental European countries reap the benefits of competition, particularly in the Netherlands, without compromising universal service.
If the BMA will sign up to those principles we'll support their call for NHS independence wholeheartedly.