British doctors’ union running a scare campaign against conservative reforms
They like their nice little cosy monopoly and are horrified by the thought of competition or efficiency. The appalling status quo is good enough for them.
The government’s NHS reforms will return medical care to the standards of the 1930s and 40s, a leading doctor has warned. Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA’s hospital consultant committee, said proposed changes would create an “increasingly tattered safety net” for people suffering from complex illnesses such as heart failure, diabetes or obesity.
He claimed that for patients in some parts of the country, care would return to “what we thought we had left behind when we founded the NHS in 1948”.
Private healthcare firms could “cherry pick” patients with the simplest conditions to treat while local hospitals could face closure if they are forced to compete with independent, profit-driven healthcare providers, he said. This would leave the NHS as a “provider of last resort” for patients denied treatment by private practises because their conditions are too expensive to deal with.
His comments will increase the pressure upon ministers over the health and social care bill which still needs to be passed through Parliament.
Dr Porter said in an interview with The Guardian: “Very deliberately the government wishes to turn back the clock to the 1930s and 1940s, when there were private, charitable and co-operative providers of healthcare. “But that system failed to provide comprehensive and universal service for the citizens of this country. That’s why health was nationalised. But they’re proposing to go back to the days before the NHS.”
Dr Porter said the “inevitable effect” of the bill would be “patchwork provision” of services across the UK with the most vulnerable unable to get the treatment they need or having to travel long distances to do so.
He warned that the UK’s healthcare system could resemble the United States where there are “quite big geographical disparities” in the care available and where “tens of millions of people can’t get access to high-quality treatment”.
Last week the BMA published a poll which it said showed that most GPs opposed government plans to give them control over £80billion of NHS budgets. About 65 per cent of family doctors believe competition between providers, including NHS and private companies, will reduce the quality of patient care, while 61 per cent said the Government’s reforms mean they will spend less time with patients.
The Department of Health denied that patient care would suffer under the reforms and criticised the BMA for the attack. A spokesman said: “We are modernising the NHS so we can offer patients high-quality care and improved health outcomes.”
“The BMA have historically opposed giving patients a choice of voluntary, independent and public sector services. But it is not in the interests of patients to bow to their demands.”
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, last week amended his NHS bill to prevent hospitals from undercutting prices charged to treat patients amid fears that the sick would receive low-quality cheaper care.
Britain needs more overalls and fewer suits
The plans put forward last week by Michael Gove for “university technical colleges”, seem eminently sensible. The colleges, backed by businesses, would teach skills such as bricklaying, plumbing and engineering to pupils aged 14 and above, at the same time as more traditional subjects.
Some critics have warned of a system designed to funnel working-class children into non-academic learning. This is an absurdly snobbish way of looking at things. Now that the jobs market is increasingly flooded with graduates waving degrees of questionable quality, those with a verifiable practical qualification will be more sought after than ever.
At present, a trained plumber or master builder can still command a handsome salary, even though many other positions are highly uncertain. People joke about “cowboy builders” largely because the trade has been infiltrated by the inexperienced and unscrupulous – a problem that would be reduced by widespread training.
Yet how curious it is that, before the meltdown, society revered besuited conmen who built rotten markets on toxic debt much more than those with the talent to construct a solid home.
‘We will not pick up toxic new bulbs’: British councils say energy-saving lights are too dangerous for binmen
What are people supposed to do? Eat them? One has to feel sorry for ordinary Brits but it is their own ingrained socialism that is destroying their quality of life
Councils across the UK are refusing to pick up low-energy lightbulbs from homes as they contain toxic mercury, which gives off poisonous vapours. But confused consumers are putting the new bulbs – classed as hazardous waste – in their dustbins when they burn out, potentially putting the safety of thousands of binmen at risk.
Previously, the public disposed of traditional lightbulbs, used in Britain for 120 years, in a domestic bin. However, they are being phased out under a European Union ruling and are being replaced with energy-saving bulbs, many of which contain mercury.
Last night UNISON, the union which represents thousands of rubbish collectors across Britain, said it was concerned at the risks binmen are facing. A spokeswoman said: ‘We are worried as most people do not know these bulbs are not to be put in dustbins. The Government is not doing enough to make people aware of the risks.’
The most common types of low-energy bulbs are known as ‘compact fluorescent lamps’. A study by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency found that when one of them breaks, it emits levels of toxic vapour up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area.
If a bulb is smashed, the UK’s Health Protection Agency advice is for householders to evacuate the room and leave it to ventilate for 15 minutes. People are also advised to wear protective gloves while wiping the area of the break with a damp cloth and picking up fragments of glass – which should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed.
The advice then states the lightbulb should be taken to a council dump and placed in a special recycling bank because councils do not collect hazardous waste.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed many councils will not collect the bulbs. A spokesman said last night: ‘If a low-energy lightbulb breaks, the mercury contained in it does not pose a health risk to anyone exposed.’
How UK offers the worst tax deal for traditional families
Millions of families with one working parent get a worse tax deal in Britain than anywhere else in the world, a survey found yesterday. Compared with other western countries a traditional family – a working husband and a wife who looks after the children full-time – pays a third more proportionally to the taxman than a single person without children.
And despite Tory promises to help married couples and families, the plight of single-earner families is growing worse under the Coalition, the report said.
The criticism, in a study for CARE, the Christian social policy charity, contrasts with repeated speeches from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith speaking up for married couple families. It said: ‘The picture is clear. The tax burden on the majority of families and individuals in the UK is not out of line with that in other countries.
‘However this is not the case with one-earner married couples with children. If their earnings are £25,000 or more, their tax burden is heavier in this country than other countries.’
The report found that since the 1960s the proportion of tax paid by a married couple with one wage close to average pay, and two children, has doubled – not least because of the abolition of the married couple’s tax allowance by Gordon Brown in 1999. Over the same period a single person with no dependants has continued to pay the same share of their income in tax.
The development of a tax system that penalises couples when one chooses to stay at home follows years of a Labour government which tried to encourage all mothers to go out to work. Despite the pressure on mothers to take jobs, there are still just over two million women who devote themselves full-time to caring for children and looking after the home.
But the CARE report, by tax analysts Don Draper, Leonard Beighton and Alistair Pearson, said: ‘The changes made by the Coalition Government will materially worsen the position of one-earner couples on an average wage, although they will improve the position of some other families.’ It added: ‘In 2009, a one-earner married couple with children on a wage of £33,745 paid over a third more in tax in the UK than in the average developed country, and a fifth more than in the average EU country.’
The authors said the shifting of the tax burden from single people with no dependants on to families with children ‘seems to have gone almost unnoticed, if indeed it was intentional’.
Under changes introduced by the Coalition, they said ‘one-earner families on an average wage are likely to find that their tax burden will rise.’ This is because although their tax threshold will rise by £1,000, the gain is cancelled out by loss of tax credits and an increase in national insurance contributions. They will by 2012 be paying nearly 80 per cent of the tax bill faced by a single person with no dependants, compared with 73 per cent now.
But, in the United States, for example, a one-earner married couple with two children, on an average wage, pays just 23 per cent of the tax paid by a single person. The percentage in other countries such as the U.S. and New Zealand is so low because of the unusually high levels of family allowances and tax credits that are given out.
The CARE report also warned that the high levels of tax on couples are a threat to single parents who want to form a relationship. The ‘couple penalty’, estimated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies to cost people as much as £200 a week if they choose to live together, has yet to be lessened by any Coalition policy.
The report said: ‘The major step the Government could take would be to introduce a transferable allowance for married couples. We urge that a start be made on this as soon as possible because of the time which is likely to be needed to make the administrative arrangement necessary to introduce it.’
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc. He says a fair bit about Libya this time.