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Is it just me or does this not make sense?

Saturday 12th March 2011

On the Lib Dem conference this weekend:

“The motion calls for the “complete ruling out of any competition based on price to prevent loss-leading corporate providers under-cutting NHS tariffs”.”

If we can buy healthcare (of the same quality) from someone other than the NHS, for less than the NHS can provide it, why on earth wouldn’t we? Why is this so inherently wrong?

Seems odd to oppose the reforms on those grounds, really.

Posted at 12:45 pm | Posted In: Politics Tagged:

7 Comments:

Lucy

Saturday 12th March 2011, 1:09 pm

I think the “of the same quality” is the key phrase here. If private healthcare were to be consistently and reliably of the same quality for less money then that’s fair enough. But it would be twice as difficult to monitor the said quality, and the chances of the quality being maintained have got to be pretty low when at the end of the day, private companies’ first priority is always to make profit.

Dickie

Saturday 12th March 2011, 2:36 pm

But its down to doctors to choose who they use. So if the private treatment isn’t as good, wouldn’t they just choose to use the NHS instead?

Lucy

Saturday 12th March 2011, 2:58 pm

They won’t be able to choose to use the NHS if the funding for the relevant service has been destroyed.

Dickie

Saturday 12th March 2011, 4:14 pm

But wouldn’t that (perhaps extreme) scenario only arise if doctors choose en masse to use alternative providers? And isn’t that only likely to happen if alternative providers can give better/cheaper service (whats to say that price will always win out? In some cases, GPs may choose a more expensive treatment that is of higher quality).

In which case, the result is a more efficient service. If that is the case, why do we care who provides the service?

Lucy

Saturday 12th March 2011, 5:01 pm

“But wouldn’t that (perhaps extreme) scenario only arise if doctors choose en masse to use alternative providers?”

No. The government (any government) doesn’t exactly have a track record of listening to those at the coal face and changing their plans accordingly.

“whats to say that price will always win out?”

I’m really not convinced that it’s the doctors themselves who will have the choice, and if it is, they are already under a stupid amount of pressure to take the cheapest option.

I would also like to highlight the ‘loss-leading’ aspect of the original quote – that is companies offering services for less money than it actually costs to run them. Then the government says, “Oh look, you used this company for this so you can use them for that as well”, irrespective of the fact that the ‘that’ actually costs more than it would have done on the NHS. So the service is less accountable and potentially still more expensive.

Lucy

Saturday 12th March 2011, 5:02 pm

It also just seems wrong to me to be applying cut throat business practices to something as fundamental as healthcare.

Dickie

Sunday 13th March 2011, 12:03 am

“The government (any government) doesn’t exactly have a track record of listening to those at the coal face and changing”

Perhaps. But I’m not sure if that is relevant here. Because if NHS services are still used, no politician is stupid enough to suggest closing them (yes, I realise I’m giving politicians more credit than they deserve). If private services get used and the NHS is then not used, great! We have a more efficient health service.

I think it is the doctors who make the choices. And of course they are under pressure to take the cheapest option, but surely we trust them not to kill their patients in an attempt to save money? If we dont, then we need new doctors.

Fair point about loss-leading, to an extent, in that theoretically it could happen. Not sure why it’s mentioned in the quote, whether there is any evidence that companies will run things at a loss. Again, this doesn’t seem a fair criticism; if they do, we’re quids in. If the situation changes, then doctors can decide not to use the expensive providers. I thought thats the whole point of the reform; that choices are made by doctors, and government doesn’t intervene (other than in setting budgets).

As for applying business practices, i fail to see the issue. “Cut-throat” business practices essentially means improving efficiency. What’s wrong with trying to make the health service more efficient?

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