Lansley’s Judgement Day


The executioner has long gone and wiped the political blood off his hefty axe but the jury is still out on Andrew Lansley’s controversial time as Health Secretary. He will be an old man before they return a verdict on his reforms and maybe – a big maybe – he had something.
He’s been vilified and booted out of a job after seemingly throwing up all the letter tiles in the scrabble game of public health in the hope they would land spelling a coherent pathway rather than the unreadable mess we appear to be left with.
His, and the Department of Health’s, defence was lamentable. They simply couldn’t explain what they were doing and the sheer depth of the reforms – the original bill was more than 600 pages long – meant they struggled to find a common theme to even explain the need for change.
But, a massive but, doesn’t it take something bold, almost dangerous to achieve real game changing reform? Establishing the NHS in the first place was a cataclysmic reorganisation of health provision yet it created the brightest example of the welfare system – a progressive and humane institution the envy of the world.
There’s little reason to expect the very act of change to create something worthwhile but the NHS was facing a cliff – spiralling costs, almost limitless bureaucracy, an ageing population and, what the heck, private healthcare had already seeped into the system – so it had to find a parachute and quick.
Slashing £80 billion from budgets, allowing ‘any qualified provider’ in and fostering more postcode lotteries with re-configured services doesn’t seem the best-packed chute in history. My view is that the changes were too grand and the obvious chaotic consequences dismissed as a heresy. I can see the sense of partnering with private business but to open the doors to a profit-driven future is just asking for trouble and the doors may only be closed again once the NHS has been sacked. It is too simplistic to view the changes akin to the Visigoths overturning the Roman Empire but many feel that is all that Lansley has achieved.
His career has crash landed and the urbane, soundbite-savvy Jeremy Hunt is in post to deliver a softer, less iconoclastic sales pitch. He will isolate issues into bite-size chunks rather than keeping to his predecessor’s aloof mantra of – this is good for you, trust me, I’m a politician.
History will be a while in reaching that final verdict and there will be much anguish along the way but a future Judgement Day just might not be as unkind to the 2012 Health and Reform Act as many of us believe it to be today. One thing is for certain is that it will provide be stacks load of material for history lessons and we will be talking about it for generations to come.

‘Paypal’ for health

We’re living longer and longer and some ridiculously high percentage of children born today will get a special telegram from a child of Prince Wills & Kate (its that far away!).

Living longer means higher costs – we all shudder at the health economics – and, no matter how well the NHS survives, people are going to have to pay either privately or through more taxes.

And hurtling along in the slipstream of healthcare innovation are the financial surfers who could benefit most from progress. Medics & Mammon – get used to it. A glimpse into the near future is provided by the news that a cloud-based healthcare payment system has just won development funding in the US.

It wants to establish a secure network in cyber-space to cope with the volume of payments from patients as they ‘scale up the business to meet public demand’. Everyone benefits from the efficiency, of course they do, and more can be spent on care.

A ‘paypal’ for healthcare will boost the credit card’s potency around hospital wards and clinics and establish a model for other countries. But,surely, America is different? True to a large extent but the gap between public and private health in the UK is widening and the safeguards for those who cannot afford to pay are getting more vulnerable by the day.

Today’s goal is a paperless NHS by; tomorrow’s could a ‘paypal’ NHS

Lord of the Pills – One Pill to rule them all?

Lord of the Pills - One Pill to rule them all?

Where is that Polypill when you need it? We should all be lacing them down with beakers of Polywater to ward off the advancing nasties but there doesn’t seem to be one pill to rule them all just yet. Feverish excitement about its imminent arrival breaks every season, just like promise of an England football renaissance but it still seems a pharma dream. One company trading as Polypill offers an online medication service….consisting of four pills! Sometime soon they say – next year say the  men and women in white coats.

Which brings us to the main point – should we? A disease-busting bomb of a pill that can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, minimise strokes & heart attacks for the over-50s is laudable but, if it was over-the-counter, how many people would use it as a substitute for a healthy lifestyle? “A kebab, bottle of cola please. Oh, and while you’re at it, give us one of those Polypills will ya?” It could become the morning after pill for the binge the night before.

It is obviously aimed at prolonging life and saving the NHS money but could it also create some big problems all of its own?

Welcome to Future Pills

Pills, needles, operations, the NHS, funding….they’re all changing and here’s where we get to talk about what is happening to the future of your health. Medical innovations and new treatments are hurtling towards us so I’ll try to make sense of some of it and let you decide the rest!