THE NHS: Things that need to be said – or do they?

After alternately scowling and then nodding in agreement at Iain Dale’s short book The NHS; Things That Need to Be Said (Global; £8.99), I have to hand it to him: this will be uncomfortable reading for some.

bookieI was – to be fair- quite surprised at how often Dale and I agree: we both think that staffing needs to be looked at more closely. That there are managers who are paid far too much, a creeping tendency to over-qualify all staff, and that if we don’t find ways to get women back into general practice (indeed all specialities) after maternity gaps, the country is throwing away knowledge and skills.

I don’t agree with him about NICE – I’ve interviewed scientists and doctors around the globe who envy us NICE. They salivate over a scientifically respected truly independent group of experts who are prepared to make the hard choices the rest of us baulk at.

Anyone who watched the #NHS2billion series on Channel 4 will be grateful surely that they don’t have to decide between patients.NHS 2bill

And I think Dale chooses soft targets in asking if we should treat binge drinkers and the regretful tattooed. The true choices are between this expensive cancer drug and that expensive cancer drug.  Whether you think a patient with late stage liver cancer or late stage kidney cancer is more deserving will very much depend on your personal history and experience.

NICE does save us from those inevitably partial decisions.

But I agree with him that Health Secretaries should be kept in place longer. And that we badly need to get our act together regarding mental health care.

The best bit about this book (sorry, Iain, all those chapters and then my eyes lit up with joy at the list on P95 – love a list!) is his ‘’50 Things Which Could Make the NHS Better’’.

FullSizeRenderI scored 29/50 – possibly more than I thought I would. I still don’t agree with Dale on quite a few core points – for example: that I should

13: Accept that the profit motive is not anathema in healthcare

And I have never been able to get my head around the Localism Agenda to even understand why:

16: The NHS should accept the localism agenda

BUT the entire short book (though pricey! there’s the profit motive in action for you) makes for really thought-provoking reading.



About the Author

Victoria Lambert has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and specialises in health and medical matters. She writes for the Telegraph, the Times, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Mail and the Mail on Sunday. She contributes to Saga, Geographical and First Eleven magazines – where she is the agony aunt.

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