Hardly a day goes by without one politician or another banging the NHS drum. The political ping-pong often revolves around the NHS wasted billions.
In July of this year the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 covered the anniversary of the death of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service. I wonder what Mr Bevan would make of today’s NHS.
During the program Jeremy Vine interviewed an Aneira Thomas, the first baby born in an NHS hospital. She was born on the 5th July 1948 at Amman Valley Hospital, Carmarthenshire.
She, her three sisters, and her daughter have all spent years working in the NHS in a variety of roles. As you can imagine she is a champion for the Health Service and is very proud of her connection to it.
However, when Jeremy Vine asked her what was the single biggest cause of waste in the NHS here answer was surprising. As I recall (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) she didn’t use the opportunity to knock the Tories or blame Conservative policies. Instead, she seemed to draw attention to the waste within middle management.
During the preceding weeks I had seen numerous stories in the press about the amount of waste in the NHS. It began to look as if the NHS is a huge bucket with so many holes in it that every time the budget is increased a lot of it escapes through the holes.
The NHS Wasted Billions
For 2015/16, the overall NHS budget was around £116.4 billion. It’s the second biggest slice of the tax payers’ pie after pensions. Defence spending for example is a third of health care.
If you work in the NHS you will probably have your own opinion so feel free to add your comments below this post. I’d be interested to know what truth there is for each of these examples of the holes in the bucket.
- Consultants paid thousands for weekend work (NHS paying locums up to £4,000 for a day’s work, The Times, February 2017)
- Agency nurses paid excessive daily rates
- The protectionism of middle managers who take a salary but contribute nothing
- Paying fortunes for drugs that should cost a fraction of the cost
- Outright and deliberate fraud
- Health tourism (accounts for £1.8 billion alone)
- Failed IT projects
- Over-treatment and over-diagnosis
- Contracting management consultants who give no value for money
- Perks, expenses, and bonuses paid to staff well in excess of their productivity
- Theft from hospitals and other medical centres
- Self-inflicted conditions and associated illnesses e.g. obesity and diabetes. (No excuse for eating junk food because healthy meals are cheaper, report finds)
- Six figure ‘golden handshakes’ for departing executives and consultants
- 1990 Courts And Legal Services Act (Section 58) which creates an annual legal bill of £1.5 billion
- Bills for private finance NHS hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). All but one of these deals was signed for under the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.
- Loss of equipment lent to patients that is not collected or returned
- Money sent abroad to fund anti-smoking projects in other countries
Are these all valid? Can you think of any others?
Hospital Parking Charges
Hospital parking charges are a contentious issue. Over £120,000,000 was collected in 2015/16 according to a report published by the Press Association.
On the one hand there are the hospitals justifying parking charges as an important revenue source that offset the budget cuts. While on the other the patients, their families, and their visitors are angry about paying for every visit.
If just some of the waste in the list above was addressed perhaps many hospitals could waive or at least reduce the parking charges.
Why can’t we admit to ourselves that the NHS is one of the most overrated, inefficient systems in the world? – The Independent, April 14th 2017