Driving home from work last night I often turn on to Radio 4 to listen to Eddie Mair- he tends not to give politicians an easy ride, which is why they must be lining up to take on his standin Carolin Quinn in his absence.
Yesterday evening Rita Donaghy talked about her enquiry findings into fatalities in the construction industry and how they amounted to an equivalent of 1 per day in the UK. She recommended greater protections for workers and the responsibility for good health and safety planning given to the director of any building project, making him prosecutable if the worst happened. Good, I thought. You can read the report here; 365 deaths stopped a year is a noble goal but in the running of things this is quite a good record considering the nature of the work.
It got me thinking about something I read last year here. According to a TPA report based on WHO data were the NHS to have the same “mortality amenable to healthcare” as the average of the other European countries studied (Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain), there would have been 17,157 fewer deaths in 2004, the most recent year for which data is available.
1 death per day in the construction industry attributed (but not proven) to bad health and safety management.
47 deaths per day (at the last count) caused by poor management of disease and by a system that champions scarcity & rationing as a virtue over good healthcare outcomes - you need only look at Jade Goody's case to understand how this comes about.
Do not get me wrong; I have several friends in the health service who do many difference jobs; doctors, nurses, admin (in my younger days I temped in admin roles in many hospital departments - at one point for over a year in one) and in many of these cases deaths are not always down to poor treatment; the reason for these death I believe are 3 fold:
1. Risk is supplanted by regulation; regulation leads to more i's dotted and t's crossed but dont account for the rules not covering every possibility that good common sense would; frontline staff merely wish to avoid incurring the wrath of the clipboard wielders and, as our MP's expenses scam proves, it so much easier to state you were playing "within the rules".
2. As far as users of the NHS are concerned it is a free service; you dont have to pull out your wallet to pay for treatment ergo it must be free. This assumption is not just an oddity within the NHS but widespread socialist consensus-think has taught us - that nothing important in this country can function without the government sticking its oar in. Thus we do not value our own health or the services which help us when we are sick.
3. The governments attempts to use the private sector as a means of palming off responsibility which rightfully belongs to it (it deeming to control our healthcare system after all) in areas like cleaning, or the more insidious use of PFI or "management consultants" to reduce levels of nursing and support staff leading to faster turnaround for beds and greater risks of infection.
In all 3 cases it is the system that is at fault; you are compelled to buy into 1 system at the barrel of a gun and treated as a right-wing nut when you question the percieved wisdom that 47 deaths per day is a worthy sacrifice to keep this "wonder of the world".
BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY
The Libertarian Party manifesto for health is deceptively simple; government doesn't hold the key to the best healthcare system; you do - if you care about your life then you need to take responsibility over it. Understanding your own mortality, accepting it and the cost it takes to keep you healthy in terms of what you do to yourself and how you mitigate the risks when the worst happens is part of that.
For me I believe the best outcome would come from combinatorial medical savings accounts and insurance; considering fully comprehensive insurance for me, my wife and the little one due to arrive any day now would be approximately £80 for all of us (compared to roughly £200 each from my wife and me for NI contributions, considering our employers double these) the cost to offset our insurance against a tax free medical savings nest egg we could take to any provider would ensure the best outcome; the one we want. For those of us unfortunate to have long term ailments this could be covered by a fairer national insurance tax which also covers emergency and maternity services (accidents and healthcare for people who have had little say in needing it should not be forced to pay for it); the costs of these relative to other sections of the NHS are relatively small and manageable.
For a better idea of how this would work; look here.