England

The NHS Jobs Program

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It was the tragic case of 73-year-old Mavis Skeet, said the Tory-leaning Daily Telegraph, that "came to symbolize the crisis in the NHS" during the early Blair-Brown years. After having her cancer surgery cancelled five times—it was first scheduled for December 1998; it was cancelled a fifth time in January 2000—her condition was declared inoperable. She died in May 2000.

In January 2000, as the situation with the health service worsened, Blair appeared on David Frost's morning program to declare that NHS spending was "too low" by European standards and a request a new infusion of cash to shore up the faltering system by adding doctors, nurses, and beds.

In a 2007 interview with the BBC (for the very good documentary "The Blair Years"), Blair acknowledged that around the time of Skeet's death he was "receiving letters from people—heartbreaking letters—about people waiting for their heart operation, their husband or their relative, and dying on a waiting list because they couldn't get treated quickly enough."

So while the NHS was denying life-extending cancer drugs to patients like Peter Herbert (because a year's treatment cost approximately £10,000), refusing to reimburse desperate queued up patients who had their procedures done abroad , and simply wouldn't tell patients about treatments deemed too costly, the system was using the new Blair cash to add bureaucrats at an alarming clip. The Daily Mail reports:

The workforce of bureaucrats in the NHS is growing six times as quickly as the number of nurses, according to official figures.

While the number of health service managers went up 12 per cent in one year, the number of nurses increased by less than 2 per cent—and the number of health visitors plummeted.

Since Labour came to power, the number of managers has almost doubled, partly as a result of the need to monitor stringent Whitehall targets on waiting times.

Not unlike this classic Yes, Minister episode, in which the employees union refuses to close an empty hospital because it would mean the loss of 500 jobs. Incidentally, the NHS is the largest employer in Europe, a fact of which they boast on their "careers" page ("It employs approximately 1.3 million staff"):