ANDREW Lansley’s NHS reforms are allegedly described by fearful Tory minsters as likely election losers, in pretty much the same way as Thatcher’s Poll Tax.
He himself seems so tired of controversy that he chooses to discuss the proposals with a audience consisting solely of supporters of his ideas. This is hardly reassuring to the electorate, most of whom, like myself, have little understanding of the issues.
They were never raised before the last General Election, which reassured us that there would be no “top down” reorganisation of the NHS. In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that there is little public understanding. Lansley himself indicates that the main professional disagreement has been caused because of the failure to explain the proposals clearly, rather than because of any inherent flaws in his ideas. At times it seems that he is the only person who does have clear understanding!
Lansley talks of issues such as the benefits of choice for patients. Unfortunately most of us remember the virtues of choice being vaunted enthusiastically with regard to the privatisation of hitherto public services by the Thatcher government. Because of this, for instance, we have the delights of being able to choose our energy tariffs from such a multitude of options that even university professors don’t understand.
We can choose from a sometimes mysterious variety of possibilities of making railway journeys from different companies, with prices varying depending on such factors as the time of the journey, or what combination of intervening stations are chosen.
Telecommunication companies bombard us with unsolicited advertising offering, as usual a bewildering series of options that are impossible to calculate. The Royal Mail has avoided privatisation so far, but the services have been made so clunky and complicated that one has to go to the Post Office, rather than the nearest mail box to make sure that the width of a badge on a birthday card isn’t ensuring extra expense for the recipient.
The cynical amongst us might well believe that it is being made more difficult and complicated to use in order to make it less appealing for its’ customers, and therefore easier to compete against when privatisation does come along.
If “choice” is the major benefit of Lansley’s reforms, then I for one am against them.
Tony Schofield, Pudsey