When the free market is not free

Much of the debate around health and social care is not about the quality of the NHS but about the management. These two things are not the same as we know when we hear about sweatshops producing cheap clothing. We are not that bothered about the quality of the clothing so long as it is cheap and we can get it (access) quickly as and when we need it. The same can apply to the NHS and proposed changes that will focus upon the marketing and managing of health and social care. People are already having to wait longer and more operations are getting cancelled says Ed Miliband in the Guardian 4th Feb. ‘Everyone who loves the NHS must fight to defeat this health bill’. While locally most of have witnessed ward/bed closures and a downgrading of professional jobs to nonprofessional /nonqualified (and cheaper) staff.

Politicians even go so far as to dictate how this should be carried out with nurses being ordered to police the production line on an hourly basis. Yes Mrs Jones is on her way out the door as planned with two minutes to spare but has she got any pain relief – who cares our job is done! Hopefully none of us will witness this scene but I fear it will be more likely as we focus upon providing a NHS as cheaply as possible. Don’t get me wrong I am all for reducing waste and responsible and accountable practice but sometimes we have to stop and think about why we are doing these things that policy constantly throws at practitioners. Asking GPs to source the cheapest and most accessible services is like asking a sweet shop owner what I can have for my weekly 50p pocket money. It does not allow GPs or other health and social care practitioners to develop as professionals who are able to identify quality over cheap options and humanistic care over mechanistic practice.

The future of the NHS as a free market is bleak if it is to continue to follow a failing approach that will reduce health and social care to a production line of (limited) options and choices. We will all have less freedom to choose than ever before.

2 thoughts on “When the free market is not free

  1. Well put! There is no such thing as a ‘free market’, public or private sectors yet this meaningless shibboleth is repeated unchallenged as if it was A Good Thing

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