If the UK's National Health Service (NHS) is to be saved from failure and privatisation its future should be planned by those independent of any personal conflict of interest, states the author of a Comment in this week's issue of The Lancet. William Jeffcoate, a Contributing Editor at The Lancet, writes that this may well be an "impossible task" for the politicians currently charged with the job. "If the British public want to retain the principles of the NHS, and to see it flourish once more, then they should understand that this is the only option," he argues.
The NHS was once a successful organisation, where dedicated health-care professionals provided first-rate care to rich and poor, under a minimalist system of management. It was also remarkably cheap. Today the NHS is a shadow of what is was - the mismanagement of those in power has meant that hospitals are failing, staff are demoralised, and vast sums of money are consumed while services become progressively shoddy, writes Jeffcoate. But privatisation is not the way to tackle the failures and appalling cost of today's NHS, he argues. A health service that is privatised will cost more, because the purpose behind providing care will not be humanitarian ideals but profit, and will be rationed, and not always available to the disadvantaged, he states.
Dr Jeffcoate concludes: "the NHS could be saved, but only if there is a real desire to do so, and only if the task were tackled with clarity of thought, planning that is independent of any personal conflict of interest, and ruthlessness of implementationIf the politicians and mandarins currently in post cannot be trusted to do what is required, then someone else should do it."