Sunday, November 9, 2008

BigHealth Privateers

The letter below is from Wendy Savage, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public. As I have stated, we should refuse treatments to people who want to pay for ineffective top-up treatments, but the discussions are clouded by the NHS's refusal to pay for effective care, which is in turn muddied by the enormous profits of the drug and private health care industry.

Post Script: There should be a NOT inserted above between the words we and should... sorry!

Branson was in the press yesterday slating the NHS as dirty and incompetant. Apparently he couldn't find an NHS hospital with no incidences of MRSA or CDiff. He has now persuded his father to have his hip done privately. Given that Branson has set up his own health care business, is this a deliberate attempt to drum up business using his father for publicity?

CDiff and MRSA are prevalent on medical wards that admit emergency patients and patients with infections. There are virtually no private hospitals seeing this class of patient, they can also pre-screen patients and admit them for short periods - no wonder they have low HCAIs compared to the NHS. Obviously we all want the NHS to do better, but Branson's comparisons with an airline is bizarre.

The letter from Wendy:
Mark Lawson (A poisonous prescription, December 7) rightly identifies the threat to the basic principles of the NHS that allowing those who can afford it to pay for extra drug treatment poses. However we dispute that "the NHS could not have afforded this" (ie expenditure on expensive life-prolonging drugs). From the figures given in Professor Richards' review, Improving Access to Medicines for NHS Patients, we calculate that the cost of providing unapproved drugs would be £120m a year, which is a tiny proportion of the £110bn NHS budget.
The NHS has not overspent this year and foundation trusts are sitting on surpluses of £400m. The international evidence is that the introduction of top-up fees increases inequality and that the poor suffer most - surely not what Gordon Brown with his "war on poverty" wishes to happen. The review is out for consultation until January 27, but does not give the option of paying for these drugs. We will be mounting a campaign to fight this proposal.
Wendy Savage
Chair, Keep Our NHS Public

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