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The NHS in Tomorrow's World

9th March 2007

Tomorrow’s World never happened, so why should Tomorrow’s NHS be any different? asks Martin Samuel in The Times.

Sunset

The government has taken its lead from the gizmo-ladden BBC programme to conjure up seductive visions of a fantastical future to make Today’s NHS more palatable.

Like flying cars and interplanetary package holidays, the government’s latest announcement to offer air conditioning on prescription for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is unlikely, but the idea is enough to inspire patience as we push bed shortages and drug rationing from our minds and conjure up better days to come.

We know it’s a pipedream: Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt sidesteps the £250m price tag for providing all those with COPD with air con, while budget-wielding GPs are unlikely to cough up hundreds of pounds for the units, he says.

‘What Tomorrow’s World demonstrated was that if an idea sounded fantastic, then, packaged the right way, the public would buy it,’ he writes.

‘Ministers stand, Raymond Baxter-like, with a futuristic blueprint of how life will be; and they know that if they make it sound sensational enough, and have a perpetual showcase of ideas, we will barely notice that, in essence, the gadgets from the last episode are kaput, nothing has changed and all we receive are updates of stuff that did not work particularly well in the first place.’

Patients aren’t disappeared from waiting lists, but kept off it by NHS bouncers bearing transparent medical reasons, he says. And the bottom line is that cost still outweighs care.

In the next installment expect another governmental sleight of hand as Chancellor Gordon Brown pulls old money out of his hat and passes it off for new in next month’s budget.


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