No way would the current Assembly Government ever consider allowing private companies to run NHS Hospitals in Wales. But amazingly, a Labour Health Secretary is reported as suggesting that this is what the current Labour Government is planning to do in England. I really do find this announcement to be hard to believe. Can't help but think its Prime Minister Brown flying a kite, trying to appeal to what is usually referred to as the Blairite wing of his party. And even though this applies in England, it matters to Wales. I live in Wales, but the NHS Trusts which deliver most of the elective treatment to Montgomeryshire are located in England. Must admit that I don't think it will happen under Gordon Brown's watch though.
Now, while I have no philosophical antipathy to the private sector running hospitals, I'm really not sure that the British people are ready for such a radical move. There's certainly been a very negative reaction to today's story from doctors, patient groups and academics. I don't agree with their knee jerk denigration of the private sector. While I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about the implications of all this to declare any support for it, I do think there's an entirely sound philosophical argument to be made in favour of what the Minister has said. The usual accusation is that the needs of shareholders would be put before vital patient services. If the involvement of the private sector were to be unfettered, I would understand this concern, but I'd expect any role for the private sector's involvement to be accompanied by a strong regulatory role for the commissioning public sector. In my opinion uncontrolled bureaucracy has every bit as much capacity to consume resources as unfettered capitalism. But then, this is probably all academic, because its so unlikely to happen. Interesting story though.