Friday, 10 April 2015

Throwing Money Around

As expected, the upcoming General Election has brought out the perennial policy approaches.

Basically, the right-wing is careful with other people's money, but know when and where to spend for beneficial results to our society, whereas the left-wing are profligate with the population's money that they take in ever-increasing taxes (many of them invisible to the man-in-the-street).

Now, any idiot can use his or her elected position to steal off everyone else and then fling that money at causes that suit their own ambitions, their cronies or their future electoral success. I could list numerous examples of this, from the Police and Crime Commissioner to the former Government's Ministers, and various points in between – and beyond (e.g. the EU).

A perhaps surprisingly useful 'litmus test' – surprising, that is, in what it ends up revealing – is spending on the National Health Service (NHS).

Now, there's a whole debate to be had on whether we should even have an NHS in its current form, and many with knowledge of medicine's current needs might say with justification that – given the choice – they wouldn't start from here, but we do have to work with what we've got today.

On this topic, there are those rabid Lefties and the like who are obsessed with public ownership of the entire NHS, and are – erroneously – critical of the present government for 'privatising' the NHS. In fact, only six percent (and a bit) is in private or charity (third sector) hands, and of that around five percent was transferred by the preceding Labour government. Only one percent or so has followed that during the past nearly five years. Oops...

In the present election campaign, though, it is the Liberal Democrats who are repeatedly pushing their policy of throwing money at the NHS as if that is the way to improve the service.

It isn't.

Money is only one of the means to an end, and the present Conservative-driven methodology of modestly increasing spending year-on-year – to remove the excuse of 'under-funding' or 'cuts' as the supposed cause of inadequate performance – while improving ways of working.and cutting out waste, is the right way to go. I have witnessed so much of both sides and their vastly different philosophies over the decades, including the 22 years I worked in the Civil Service, that I have become well aware of the virtues and demerits of each side of the argument.

Interestingly, it was Labour who had backed themselves into a corner through their vast overspending during their time in office that resulted in their cluelessness necessitating actual cuts in NHS spending. As I indicated above, this would provide an oh-so-convenient excuse for the dropping of standards within the (heavily-Unionised) NHS and, in effect, a form of blackmail to the government of the day to up spending on the NHS hugely. It would backfire and people would be harmed in the process.

It might sound somewhat Buddhist in nature, but 'the middle path' is the right way to deal with this whole topic – and there are others that are similar, for that matter. Apply intelligence and insight, not dogma, laziness or vested interests, and the NHS can continue well into the future, adapting and improving, staying relevant and valuable.

Take any other path and its future becomes highly uncertain...

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