Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Future of the NHS

It is an absolute pleasure to be able to tell you about a brand new book entitled ‘The Future of the NHS’. Much hard work has gone into the development of this book and the outpouring of goodwill from all those involved has managed the initially almost unthinkable task of producing a single volume book discussing such a mammoth topic.

To give this a bit of perspective, the NHS is the fifth largest employer in the world, employing 1.33 million people. The only larger employers are the Chinese army, the Indian Railways, Wal-Mart and the US Department of Defense. When you consider this number of employees in global terms, it equals around three times the population of Malta or Barbados. After adding in the number of patients being treated at any one time, it brings the total NHS population to be around the size of an African country, such as Botswana or The Gambia. Thinking of the NHS as a country of this magnitude brings home the difficulties involved in how to manage an organisation with a vast number of patients, an unstable economy, an ageing infrastructure and an organisation that does not produce saleable goods. However, this is offset by the fact that unlike any other country on earth, the NHS has one single and extraordinary asset – its population is driven and united by hard working, dedicated employees who are the cornerstone to the service. These are the people who need to be consulted when problems arise. These are the people who need to be consulted when reforms are proposed and these are the people who need to be consulted when legislation is being implemented.

This year 2006, marks the historic 60th anniversary of the passing of the original NHS legislation, so it seems to be the perfect time to start talking about the future of the NHS; to be making long-term plans and ensuring that the NHS does not itself go into retirement. This book brings eminent experts together from centrally relevant disciplines with a wide range of perspectives, to set out views clearly and readably; to enable the general reader (whether professional or lay person) to better understand the cardinal questions involved in this NHS debate. Early chapters express views from main political parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats and continue with chapters from top NHS professionals in leading authorities across a broad range of specialties. The discussion continues about how the NHS is managed, trained, regulated and funded and considers alternative and innovative methods of tackling complex financial issues.

The NHS was founded upon the principles that healthcare must be freely available to all, from cradle to grave, and that provision must be based on need rather than ability to pay. So radical was the idea that its architect, the then Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, described it as “the biggest single experiment in social service the world has ever seen undertaken.” Whilst many may see it as clich├ęd or old-fashioned to be harking back to those early days, it is nevertheless important to realise, that the circumstances of its formation have left a very important legacy. Those noble aims and ideals were translated within the NHS to create what is frequently described as a beacon to the rest of the world.

It is with all this in mind that this book brings together centuries of experience and expertise and I know that everyone involved wants it to be the start of a positive and open-minded great debate about the NHS, rather than the destructive culture of blame and short-termism which so often holds sway.

This book is available from xpl publishing, most bookshops, BMA hammicks or amazon and the book supports charities, such as, Mind and The Patients Association.. For more information or to join in the great NHS debate, then simply log onto The Future of the NHS