How to improve the NHS: make patients into customers
The NHS has become an almost untouchable part of this country’s make up. He who dares to question its viability ends up branded as a creature of the right, nothing more than a Thatcherite headbanger. There is no better example of this than the response of the unions to Blair’s attempts to reform healthcare; threats of mass action were issued, and the whole debate made too politically fraught to be worth continuing. Moreover, this stands not only in relation to the NHS, but also for education, pensions, and just about any other form of welfare you can think of.
Baby Creative think it is time to get involved.
It seems that no one is actually happy with the NHS as it is, but that they feel compelled to defend it to the death nonetheless. It seems everyone you talk to has had some problem with their GP, or had appointments cancelled, or at least had to deal with grumpy staff. One or two are probably whingeing, but the scale of the problem suggests it is actually the standard of the NHS which is at fault here. Radical change is needed.
The difference between the NHS and the average business is that employees get paid, and get paid the same, regardless of service and quality. There is no incentive to do anything other than turn up, do your nine-to-five, then clock off on the dot and collect your wages.
So, as painful as this may be, it might be time to take some advice from the French. In the French system, you choose which doctor you visit, and pay them directly. It is therefore in their interests to be helpful, friendly, and to keep their appointments. You’re a customer, not an annoyance. What’s more, after you’ve paid your choice of GP, you can then apply to your insurer or the government for a refund, so it’s not even your money you’re spending.
Now we would never suggest this system is perfect, refunds often take time, countless forms, and no small amount of hassle. However, we could instead give the ‘customer’ an NHS credit card that allows them to spend the state’s money as they see fit. Surgeries would be competing for custom and, instead of claiming to be oversubscribed, would find themselves bending over backwards to fit you in, actually keeping their appointments, and doing it all with a smile on their face.