So the Tories plan to axe NHS Direct. No big surprise there; it was a Labour initiative and so it was bound to be in their firing-line. Furthermore, there is another element of the NHS Direct which was bound to rattle the Tories’ cages. The fact that they are not exactly committed to the NHS as a concept.
NHS Direct costs £123m a year but saves an estimated amount of £200m for the NHS as whole, lessening the burden on A&E and other services the NHS provides. The BBC website claims that roughly 14,000 people a day use NHS Direct and although it has its critics, GPs among them, the initiative has been largely successful since it was introduced in 1998.
The Tories plan to introduce a new telephone service called 1-1-1 which they claim will be cheaper to implement, and unlike NHS Direct will be free. So why am I complaining you might ask? Well, firstly 40% of the staff of NHS Direct are medical professionals, mainly nurses, the rest have attended a 60 week training course. The 1-1-1 scheme will cut the medical professionals out of the equation, which means when every time a member of the public uses the service he/she will be receiving medical advice from someone who has received just 60 hours of training. Is it just me or does this sound utterly crazy? Most of us wouldn’t use a non-Corby Registered gas-fitter and with good reason – how many of us would be willing to trust an amateur with our health?
One of the fundamental problems emerging from this government is the hyper-manic pace of their policy-making – they seem to be making them up on-the-fly. Scrapping NHS Direct without having anything credible to replace it with is likely to lead to more problems and expense, not to mention how life-threatening the repercussions will be. Yes, I believe this government’s policies are directly going to lead to deaths in this instance. The guilty party in this case is MP Andrew Lansley, and if people die as a consequence of this moronic plan he should be held criminally-negligent, that is what would happen to a doctor after all.
The Tories show absolutely no commitment to the NHS; they seem to asset-stripping it. They are doing the same to every public service and using the deficit as an excuse to do so. This is neoliberalism at full throttle, and we need to stop the Tories in the tracks before it is too late.