Thursday, January 05, 2006

It's the Policies that Count, not the Parties

Quiet day on the Blogging front (most references to Adam Smith have been to various spportsmen and a US Congressman called 'Adam Smith' since three weeks ago). The Adam Smith Institute at: ran a piece today by Dr Eamonn Butler on David Cameron's (the new Conservative Party leader) apparent 'U' turn on Tory attitudes to the UK National Health Service.

The Conservative leaning media has mostly been critical (like the Left press and MPs were when Tony Blair ditched a few central ideas of the Labour Party before 1997). I offered the following views as an independent which were published on the Blog):

"A proposal to fund health care so that it is free at the point of use is the better solution to the funding problems of the NHS and the added problems of a deadlock between Left and Right over what essentially is ideology. The Left insists on health care being both funded by taxpayers and provided by state employees (a view that ignores most GPs are not state employees) and the Right insist that the NHS be dismantled and privatised, part privatised.

Adam Smith held more pragmatic views on state funded public projects. They could be funded by taxation, or tolls on users and manged either by Public Commissioners or by Private contractors. I am inclined to agree that the combination of state funding (most people in the UK understand public funding) with private provision through the private sector breaks the log jam on health reforms. Most people who use the services of GPs, funded by taxation, are quite happy that they are not NHS employees. There is no demand that they should be and on that basis opposition to privately provided health services under contract to the NHS will not generate the popular opposition of the public using the services.

In time it may prove to be as acceptable as not to be discussed, much like the right to purchase state funded and managed housing stock some years after Mrs Thatcher’s government created the ‘right to buy’. Nobody can doubt that this has benefitted the majority of former tenants and their families, improved the housing stock and been a ‘good idea’ despite opposition from some MPS, Councillors and public sector unions.
I envisage the same outcome in health provision. I consider this proposal to be better than fiddling at the edges with ‘passports’ and ‘vouchers’ (the latter are more appropriate in education). From competing styles of provision amongst the public funding of public employee management of hospitals, privately managed hospitals, and some forms of ‘half-way’ entities of NHS hospitals that elect to separate from the NHS-run sector, the UK will achieve a better health service than under a monopoly NHS sector and a limited minority private sector.

And, for good, measure, I do not think it important whether this reform is introduced by a Cameron-led Tory Party or a Damascine-converted Blair or Brown Labour Party. The main thing is to get it implemented."

Comment by G. Kennedy on Jan 05


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