Fraser Nelson

The tragedies of a wasteful system

The tragedies of a wasteful system
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Anyone who wonders how the NHS can almost treble its phenomenal budget while its service grows worse on many measures should read The Guardian this morning for an example. The 2004 GPs’ contract – Stuff Their Mouths With Gold II – meant their pay soared to an average £120,000, but that for just a £6k salary sacrifice they could opt out of those antisocial shifts. A stupidly good offer, which nine out of ten accepted.

So, as our GPs hit the golf course, the NHS often has to fly in doctors from overseas to provide cover*. The problem is, if you drag Germans straight off the plane and send them straight to a home visit, mistakes are made. This is how David Gray, a 70-year-old who spent a lifetime of taxes building the NHS, was killed by its shortcomings. Or, more accurately, was killed by a German doctor who gave him ten times the amount of a painkilling drug – later explaining he’d been sent to work with just three hours rest and was “too tired” to get the decimal point right.

In a strange way, I always think it’s a greater outrage when pensioners are killed by NHS incompetence. They are of a generation who took a lower net salary all their lives to pay for what they were told was a cradle-to-grave service. They should be treated like kings in the NHS, having been its founding paymasters.  And to think this wasteful system has been guaranteed real terms budget increases under the Tories.

*I once met a supply doctor in Stockholm who was so shocked about what he saw in the NHS that he refused to go back. “They still use written notes. They think it very important that doctors wear a tie, but not so important that they wash their hands.” And we wonder why no country on the planet has copied the NHS model.

UPDATE: I should point out that the GPs' contract was agreed as part of the Blairite NHS reforms that I have always praised. No denying this was a massive own goal - or, to be more accurate, a 5-0 defeat by the BMA which comprehensively outwitted and outmanouevered ministers.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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