How the monolithic NHS sells us short

It  would be utterly wrong to deny that the NHS has improved in the last decade, but ministers who boast it is the envy of the world should be made to study the latest European healthcare league table.

Not only are we languishing in mid-table mediocrity for overall performance, but in areas that really matter – cancer survival rates, waiting times for treatment, access to new drugs and hospital-acquired infections – we are near the bottom of the list of 31 countries.

Given that our annual health spending has doubled since 2002 to almost £100billion, these figures are shaming.

St Helier Hospital

St Helier Hospital

Even Estonia, which has a budget a quarter the size of ours, outperforms us.

If proof were needed that money poured into the health service since 1997 has not always been spent wisely, here it is.

Far too much has gone into bumping up the wages and gold-plated pensions of medical staff (particularly GPs, who have received huge increases for doing LESS work) and employing legions of bureaucrats to set facile targets, many of which are detrimental to patient care.

As the European Health Consumer Index report concludes, Britain’s health problems stem from the monolithic, centralised nature of the NHS. All the most efficient health services in Europe have a much better balance between private and public provision and between national and local delivery.

Until Britain achieves this balance and until the NHS is run for the benefit of its patients rather than its employees, this vast, inherently inefficient behemoth will continue to underperform in the European healthcare league.

A welcome reprieve

For years, the Mail has campaigned to save post offices, especially in rural areas.
For those who do not drive, and where local bus services are non-existent, they provide a focal point and the essential glue which binds village communities together.

This is why we have been so passionately opposed to the short-sighted closure
programme which has seen 5,000 of our 19,000 post offices disappear under Labour and another 2,500 about to go.

The decision yesterday to renew the key contract, which allows post offices to pay
pensions and benefits, is to be welcomed.

Had the contract gone to a rival, another 3,000 post offices could have vanished. It’s been reported that this latest move was in part down to the intervention of new Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

If true, we salute him but warn the nation’s sub-postmasters: if the minister, whose love of money is only equalled by lack of judgment in his own affairs, comes visiting, do keep a close eye on the till!

Charles at 60

On his 50th birthday, the Prince of Wales’s reputation was at its lowest ebb and there
were genuine doubts about whether the monarchy would survive after the Queen.

The vitriolic ‘War of the Waleses’ ended with Diana’s death and her public beatification, his affair with Camilla brought widespread condemnation and he was seen as an aloof parent. He appeared consumed with self-pity.

Ten years on, Prince Charles, if not a totally contented man, seems to have
attained a degree of equanimity and focus in his life.

He has deservedly received many plaudits for his diligent charity work. His criticisms of hideous modern architecture and genetically modified food and his ultra ‘green’ views on the environment – once seen as cranky and eccentric – are now mainstream.

On his 60th birthday, we wish him the very best of health and happiness.

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