Reader’s Comment: We must all carry on stuffing our money into the bloated beast of the NHS


In response to, Karen Harradine: Terminate the atrocious, socialist NHS, paul parameter wrote:

When I saw this headline, “Terminate the atrocious, socialist NHS”, I nearly fell off my chair. Karen Harradine wanting to slaughter the holy bovine that has been worshipped as untouchable for the last 70 years? Nothing short of blasphemy, heresy, insanity, and any other expression of outraged horror you can think of. Go to the naughty step, Karen, kneel and pray for forgiveness for your sins as you pour ashes on your head.

But she is uncomfortably close to being right. The NHS suffers from the same malaise that afflicts all massive state monopolies or near-monopolies: huge bureaucracies with no effective accountability, wedded to the certainty that nobody needs to bother too much, work too hard or meet any great standard, because it is almost impossible to be sacked, and there will always be a bottomless pit of taxpayers' money available to fund it all. Plus in this case, the added bonus of being able to pose as heroes and heroines in an absolutely vital industry that everyone supposedly loves and is above criticism.

The NHS is a huge mixed bag. It contains thousands of dedicated, honest, hard-working and committed individuals, who save lives and relieve pain and distress. It also contains thousands of wasters who do the minimum to get by, who would rather be somewhere else, and whose main motivation is to clock watch until it is time to collect their next pay packet.

This is not random insulting. My wife worked in the NHS for many years and saw it all. Every day, she would come home with a new story of inefficiency, of stupidity, of wasted money, of hopeless employees who caused more work than they ever performed, of chronically bad management and of creaking, outdated systems that everyone knew were not working, but nobody could do anything about. I met some of the people she had to work with, and found myself agreeing with her opinions. Some of them should have simply been sacked because they were truly useless and dragged everyone else down. But there they were, still trundling along happily with a soft job for life just as long as they didn't actually kill anyone or burn the place down. But this is inevitable: if you employ huge numbers in a nationalised industry, they will always be a mixed bag of good and bad.

Over the years, I also have watched how additional functions and purposes have gradually crept into and taken over the NHS agenda. If you think the purpose of the NHS is to take care of the nation's health, nothing less and nothing more, think again. I can add at least two others that have nothing to do with improving anyone's health but are vastly damaging: these are to soak up unemployment by inventing unnecessary jobs for those who could not get work anywhere else; and to act as a propaganda device for governments. 

We see the latter at work at every election: a bidding war between the parties to see who can promise the greatest increase in spending and the bigger number of new doctors and nurses that are always coming our way - but somehow never seem to arrive, or if they do, they do not make anything better. 

Every government increases spending on the health service by "more than inflation"; and every government presides over crisis after crisis. Scarcely a week goes by without another one hitting the headlines, whoever is in power. I sometimes think we ought to rename it as "NHS in crisis" because that is its usual state. But still, we must all carry on worshipping and stuffing money into this crippled, bloated, bleeding, bellowing beast as it struggles to keep itself upright.

The reality is that there will never be enough money to fund the NHS all the while it seeks the impossible aim of making us all healthy and disease free, and does so with a captive clientele of millions of people (plus the free riders from outside the UK). It is not fit for that purpose; either the purpose has to change, or something better needs to be found. This is the first step, to get agreement that it cannot go on like this. But alas, all I see from our political parties is the old mantra that this "envy of the world" must be sustained in its current form by yet more billions of taxpayers' money that will magically solve all its problems.

  • Labour_is_bunk

    Further, the article attracted a sprinkling of trolls who resorted to abuse and unsubstantiated comments, rather than debate the very valid points that were raised.

  • Aaron D Highside

    An engineering company owner I know used to make parts for British Rail. On a visit to one of their workshops, he noticed a huge pile nuts (the sort that fit on bolts, not the sort that sit in shadow cabinets) and asked why they were there. He was told that they used to use nuts and bolts for many applications but now they used the bolts as rivets and discard the nuts. “Why not just use rivets?”. “We’ve always used nuts and bolts”. Same mentality as the NHS.

  • Jingleballix

    My recent experience – with a badly broken arm – tells me that the NHS is absolutely brilliant.

    It is full of fantastic professionals in all key areas……..doctors, nurses, ancillary professionals and domestic workers. I am so grateful to them.

    All at no direct cost to me.

    No doubt, the Labour-appointed managers, assessors and whatevers are a huge drag on the proper NHS employees.

    • Paul Robson

      That’s really the problem. My wife is an ex nurse and the endless stream of nonsense detracts from both the time to do the job, and the “ancillary professionals” (a lot of the people who like like Nurses aren’t).

      It’s makeweight work for the otherwise unemployable. People shoving paper at each other 24/7.

      The other major problem is PFI built hospitals (shamefully continued by the Coalition and Tory governments) which are starting to bite ; and the PFI bill is the first one to be paid.

      True story: I took part in the message board on our local paper. Occasionally we wrote about our PFI hospital. There was this bloke who popped up within about half an hour defending it. On one occasion he offered me a personal guided tour (I’m nobody).

      A few weeks later I saw him on the news (he had an odd name so I knew it was the same bloke). It was the PR Head for the whole trust. Who had so much work to do that he was defending the hospital from the criticisms of people who don’t matter and closely monitoring the local paper comments board.

      • Jingleballix

        By ancillary professionals – I mean radiographers and physios.

        The ‘hangers-on’ are generally Labour apparatchiks, student activists-turned pads-turned-failed-parlimentary-candidates………all given jobs by Gordon Brown as part of the strategy to weaponise the NHS.

        One such parasite goes by the name of Karl Milner.

        Never EVER done a stroke of work with anything except his mouth……..big bucks salary courtesy of the NHS (i.e. Labour Party connection) though.

  • Fissionchips

    Brilliant article and so, so true. The NHS is the political ‘football’ that each Party use and play with to score political goals. Sadly, the Labour Party all too often resort to ‘foul play’ by picking up the ball and running with it as though they own it. Indeed, look at their Manifesto and you will see they are doing it again – for the umpteenth time. I would rather rename the NHS as The International Health Service (IHS) because that is how it is being used, with scant little or no effective controls to stop the abuse by other non-contributing Nations.

  • Whenever I visit an NHS hospital, there always seems to be lots of employees wandering around, usually with a folder or something similar in their hand. The whole air of the place always seems to be rather chaotic.
    I recently visited a friend in a large private hospital and the place seemed so calm, no odd people wandering about, the whole atmosphere was totally different as well as being cleaner and tidier. It gave the impression of a well organised highly efficient organisation.
    Why the difference?
    Please don’t say “money” as I don’t think it is true. Oh yes, the private hospital had a free car park!

    • Paul Robson

      Money is partly it ; capitalist imperative. If it’s your money being wasted on bureaucratic and or trendy cr*p you stop it as much as possible.

      Public Sector bodies *always* plead poverty (irrespective) because they want more money. It shows in the “spend up your budget” mentality.

      I remember taking my son to an NHS hospital for some work on his teeth years ago. Four seperate people asked for his name and address etc. which was on their computers anyway.

      • The Public sector has a totally different meaning for many words compared with normal usage. “A cut” in the budget means you didn’t get as big an increase as you demanded. “A severe cut” is when you only got enough extra to cover inflation. This becomes “A devestating cut” if you get zero increase or even what would be considered to be a cut by norman people. Similar distortion of the language applies to words like “efficiency” and “staff reductions” which again have special meanings withing the public service. (I know, I worked for the civil service for quite a few years!)

    • Mike Fowle

      Agree.I know it’s just one example, but last year I had cataract operations which were subcontracted to a private hospital. The ophthalmologist who was working there said he much preferred it to the NHS hospital where he also worked as it was so much better organised and he could concentrate on his work rather than constant distractions.

      • My GP took early retirement and as we were of similar ages and I’d recently done the same, we had quite a discussion on the subject. His complaint was that he had studied as a doctor because he wanted to help sick people and hopefully cure them and when he started as a GP he had very little paperwork to do other than keeping the patients’ records up-to-date. By the time he retired, he was spending nearly half his time dealing with NHS paperwork and following NHS orders by doing such tasks as warning patients about the dangers of alcohol and of smoking, meeting targets for checking elderly patients for senility, etc, which, as he said, would normally be done if the doctor felt it necessary without having to be told by the NHS.
        This is one reason why there is a GP shortage; if they could spend more time with patients and less with NHS management the situation would improve immensely.

        • Andy

          Well I have to say when I go to my surgery I am always rather bemused at what goes on. If you have a 10am appointment you arrive early, log in then sit and wait, and wait, and wait. They are never on time. And yet watching the TV screen eachtime it ‘pings’ they don’t seem to be seeing that many patients if you measure the time between patients walking in. Hospitals are something else. Off shortly to visit someone. On the main corridor, probably at vast expense, they have signage which reads ‘Zone’, but we all have to look for a ‘Ward’, although this is helpfully still written on the Ward Sign, but in very small letters. I mean what is the point ? And when on the ‘Ward’ you see plenty of staff doing what exactly ?? I think it is high time we told the public some home truths and finally admitted that the State can’t run a p*ss up in a brewery and we broke up the NHS and let the private sector run it.

          • Dominic Stockford

            The profit motive, appealing as it does to people’s greed, often finds efficiencies where the public services can’t even see the time of day.

          • Andy

            Exactly. Healthcare is a business just like any other, so we need to get over this ‘profit is evil’ crap. We have no problem with it regarding food, so why healthcare ??

          • Ozfan

            Exactly, and while I’m sure Comrade Corbyn would love to introduce state farms, we know the results in the former communist countries … starvation.

          • Yes, try visiting someone in Stoke Mandeville hospital!

          • Andy

            I’ll pass on that one thanks.

          • Andy wrote:

            I think it is high time we … broke up the NHS and let the private sector run it.

            Break it up certainly but not for the benefit of private corporations. The dismantled NHS must be returned to the charity sector from which it was originally formed.

          • Andy

            That was the ‘original sin’ of the NHS – ceasing the assets of what were private charitable trusts without compensation. Bevan was a fool. I do believe that we should break up the NHS and yes we can return many of the assets to charitable trusts, but I do not have a fear or phobia of private corporations. They drive efficiency and I think far greater use ought to be made of them. We need to grow up and stop this silly nonsense about anything that is done for profit.

        • Mike Fowle

          There was an interesting on line discussion at the IEA a year ago or so, and one GP said that if you turn up with an illness or an injury he loses money. He gets paid for all the diagnostic government guidelines checking stuff, not for actually treating someone (or not as much).

          • Exactly. My new GP seems more interested in seeing that my blood pressure accords with NHS guidelines, questions me about my salt intake than telling me what to do about whatever I was suffering from at the time. It recently turned out that my tablet to reduce my blood pressure (Ramipril) was causing the cough that was giving me serious problems.

        • Ozfan

          Couldn’t all those warnings and checking stuff be done by less qualified staff such as nurses ?

          • He had a secretary and there were a practice nurses. I’m just repeating what I was told.

        • D J

          The NHS now automatically puts in an appointment to do a routine 75y old check up.Sounds positive, but I saw someone last week who has an appointment booked for June 30th 2072!
          It makes the Stalinist USSR seem efficient.

          • Like a web site which demanded my date of birth when I bought something on-line. I put 01/01/1901.
            Last year I got an e-mail congratulating me on my 115th birthday!

    • choccycobnobs

      That old joke: Q; How many people work in the NHS? A; About half of them.

  • Mark Phillips

    I’ve been saying for years that the NHS needs a grown up debate about what it’s for. It’s not a debate about privatisation or not, but just how it does what it does with the resources it has. In the first instance, Susanne Cameron-Blackie’s revalation that over half the NHS budget is going to settle litigation has to be sorted. It’s unsustainable. For people to claim damages for Private treatment to right NHS wrongs and then use the NHS to do the work is a double whammy on the NHS that has to be stamped out. Then the expensive cancer treatments that go into tens of thousands of pounds. Should they be used to extend the life of a person by mere months, or should those funds be employed doing operations that cure and improve the life of a person for decades?
    It’s stuff that has to be debated without emition and a concencus has to be found to use NHS funds in the best way possible in order to affect good outcomes for the most people.

  • beautykinguk

    The NHS has been on life support for many years. It would actually be kind to the taxpayer to pull the plug and start again with some form of voucher system.

    • beautykinguk wrote:

      The NHS has been on life support for many years. It would actually be kind to the taxpayer to pull the plug and start again with some form of voucher system.

      Not enough. The NHS needs to be broken up and returned to its charitable origins, with hospitals run by boards of capable, accountable and genuinely disinterested governors.

  • Tethys

    The Blair Government increased funding and performance improved.
    Now we see cuts in real terms plus centrally generated clinical staff shortages, and guess what, we see targets & standards first relaxed, and then missed.

    • UKCitizen

      No, the Blair Government went on an off book PFI spending spree which hangs around the NHS like a millstone and will do for years to come.
      And don’t give me the crap that PFI was introduced by the Tories, Blair saw it as a way to buy now pay later to win votes and spanked it for all it was worth and didn’t really care that the deals were terrible.

      • Tethys

        I see you evade the points I make.
        Funding up: output up and vice-versa. Spending to the EU average would be reasonable.
        Although a different issue I don’t 100% disagree on PFI.
        However, surely there’ll be £350m per week for them after Brexit according to the Bus ?
        That should help !

        • nanumaga

          Please note – the EU average figures as quoted % of GDP include a huge chunk of private/insurance health care. It is certainly true that where a ‘National Health Service’ doesn’t exist and citizens are not compelled to pay for this in income tax and NI, they and their employers will pay for private health insurance.

        • UKCitizen

          Less points, more mushy splashes.

    • Dominic Stockford

      There have been no real terms cuts, In fact there has been an average real terms increase in expenditure on the NHS of 0.1% for each of the last 10 years.

      • Tethys

        ‘Meaningful terms’ if you prefer, taking account of Healthcare inflation and increasing demand.
        This combined with destaffing is relevant.

    • Colkitto03

      They did it by privatisation. I am surprised to see you as a big supporter of PFI?
      100s of millions into the the pockets of elite fatcats. Billions our kids have to pay off?
      I would like to see you standing up the common man and woman.
      Enough of your capitalist ideology. 🙂

  • alecto

    I have watched the decay in the NHS over the last 3-4 decades. I can say with hand on heart that at the present time it is the worst I have ever known it to be. What it doesnt need is ever more injections of cash without accountability or reform.

  • Dominic Stockford

    If it worked at cutting back on waste, and at providing health care at the point of need (not want) it might find it can actually do a decent job. It would certainly find it had enough money. And if it cut back from the 43,000 senior managers to a more reasonable 4,300 then they might do some work, stop anoying peple, and into the bargain save even more.

    One thing that would help is cutting things that aren’t health care. IVF should not be free on the NHS for anyone – not having a baby isn’t an illness. Removing tattoos, and most cosmetic surgery should also be cut, as should all the money being wasted on people who want to ‘trans’. The list goes on.

  • nanumaga

    It’s a simple truth that some organisations simply become too big to be properly managed by mortal humans. The NHS reached this stage some decades ago. It is, however, well within human capabilities to learn by observation and objective analysis what better options exist around the world for healthcare provision in 21st Century Britain. I cling to the faint hope that a large majority Tory government might allow a few of the less lily-livered MPs in Parliament to stick their heads above the parapet and call for an independent commission to research and review this matter and to make proposals which can be considered without the dog-whistle, irrational political rhetoric which customarily afflicts discussion of the NHS. The NHS in modern secular Britain is the nearest thing we have to a state religion. It is indeed a sacred cow and the sooner it is led to the abattoir and replaced by a more effective fit-for-purpose model, the better for all our health’s sake.

  • Groan

    For various reasons to do with long term illnesses in family members I have long experience of two NHS Hospitals. Both deliver good “clinical” care. However one is good at the basics, cleanliness, customer care, feeding and watering the basics . The other is a shambles on all fronts.The danger with the latter is that if you are confused and without family or helpers then its easy to see how you might get the wrong dose, no water or not be fed. Also having worked in the NHS for many years I know there is absolutely nothing that gives any incentive for the chaotic hospital to improve to match the organised one. Absolutely nothing at all. So it has made no discernable improvement in the 10 years I have had to be familiar with it.
    And there’s the problem in the chaotic hospital, there are good folk there compensating for the idiocy, but that’s just luck. There is nothing to support them nor censure the bad, nothing to push or pull the management to the standards of their neighbour. Whatever the reforms, and in the decade I’m referring to there have been two, in the end the contrast remains the same.
    This is the problem. Just like the old soviet system; the good survives, but does not prosper, in spite of the system not because of it.
    The bottom line is that the whole edifice is built on the idea its doing us, patients, a huge favour; for which we should be grateful. there is absolutely nothing at all that would make it pay any attention to its “customers” apart from the goodwill and commitment of staff dedicated to wading through the accreted nonsense to do their best.
    The tragedy is that the “sacred” status does nothing to support these good folk, it just makes their life harder as the shiftless, rude and careless go unchecked.

    • Tethys


  • Calvin Graham

    I just wish they’d stop coming up with health tips to “save the NHS x money” – until they can cure death it will always cost a lot of money for someone to eventually die, whether that’s heart disease and lifestyle related disease or dementia and long term care. The only question for June 8th is how do we get the best outcomes for the agreed compromise amount of money we’re willing to throw onto the bonfire.

    My election roundup cartoon

    • Marat

      I queued to pick up a prescription today. There was a sign next to the pharmacist’s counter showing all the things the NHS could help people with. Losing weight, alcoholism, drug dependency, sexually transmitted diseases, emergency contraception; all of them caused by a lack of self-restraint and avoidable by employing self-discipline.

      Instead, the taxpayer has to pick up the tab.

    • Tethys

      Not forgetting tge extra £350m per week of course…

  • mollysdad

    How much money does the NHS spend on committing statutory murder (s51 International Criminal Court Act 2001) by abortion and embryocidal contraception?

  • wiggiatlarge .

    Everything said in this article is true, yet again the “Elephant in the room” is ignored, 300k immigration per annum , all of whom can rock up to any part of the NHS and get treatment having never paid into the system, never mind the illegals whom we have no true figures for.
    Of course all parties having ignored this issue on grounds that are hard to fathom, or not for years then state, we need immigration to staff our hospitals, frankly we wouldn’t if we trained our own and stopped importing cheap labour and of course those imported are there to serve the extra “customers” that are the immigrants, I believe they call it a ponzi scheme in other fields.

    • Marat

      I had the pleasure of visiting my local GP’s surgery today. I was the only white man in the waiting room, in front of or behind the counter. All the staff were women, all the patients were black, or Muslim, or female, or all three.

      • Andy

        You must be delighted to be a ‘minority’.

    • Ozfan

      No, it’s over 650k immigrants per year, and that’s on the Government’s deliberately understated figures. It’s a truely astounding level of immigration into an already crowded country and yes, first thing to do is avail yourself of the wonderful “free” health checks and care, paid for by others.

      Net immigration is 300k, because 350k or so leave the UK each year. But they were not big users of NHS – you don’t emmigrate in poor health.

  • Pauly

    I’m sure I read somewhere a few months ago that in the North West of England the NHS was advertising for a deputy/assistant diversity officer on 60k a year. A Diversity Officer on 60k a year would have been an outrageous waste of money but a deputy? Seems to me it’s out of control.