Money for Nothing

Health care jobs program

After the National Health Service canceled her cancer surgery five times—it was first scheduled for December 1998, and the fifth cancellation came in January 2000—73-year-old Mavis Skeet’s condition was declared inoperable. She died in May 2000.

In the words of the London Daily Telegraph, Skeet’s case “came to symbolize the crisis” in the British health system. In January 2000, as the situation with the health service worsened, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that British health spending was “too low” by European standards and requested a new infusion of cash to shore up the faltering system by adding doctors, nurses, and beds.

A decade later, what are the results? The cash was spent, but by and large it didn’t increase the volume or quality of care in the U.K. Instead, as the Daily Mail reported in March, the number of bureaucrats has grown six times faster than the number of nurses. The number of managers has almost doubled since 1997, when the Labour Party came to power, despite Blair’s statement at the time that he intended to “raise spending in real terms every year—and spend the money on patients, not bureaucracy.” 

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