The NHS is using Covid to push for more restrictions
Why are powerful voices still calling for less indoor mixing?
You would be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu this morning, as Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation once again described his frustration with the government’s “living with Covid” plan. After all, only three days earlier he had appeared on the BBC’s breakfast programme, again lambasting the Government for following a “living without restrictions ideology”.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
The Confederation has appeared repeatedly in the media this week calling for “mitigating actions”, reported to include new restrictions on people mixing indoors, and a new push to make people wear face masks. Taylor was also keen to explain that NHS managers should be given leniency when it came to targets due to the impact of Covid. Whether the public will still buy this defence — two years after the start of the pandemic —remains to be seen.
Taylor is no stranger to doing the media rounds. After all, he has worked extensively in politics, serving as Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to Tony Blair. Since his appointment to the Confederation in June 2021, he has called repeatedly for renewed restrictions. As one political commentator remarked last year: “As a former Blair aide, Matthew Taylor knows how to use the NHS brand to push for Covid Plan B”.
But we must ask: why? With multiple vaccines and treatments available and plenty of time for healthcare planning, Covid cannot still be used as a justification for more restrictions.
There was an agreement struck at the start of the pandemic. That in order to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed — and to “flatten the curve” unprecedented limits — restrictions would be placed on everyday activities. But there is a significant difference between a society limiting basic freedoms because of an acute emergency, and a society having its freedoms depending on the capacity of a healthcare service years down the line. In a liberal democracy, is it right that restrictions are normalised, and that sweeping limits can be placed on individuals at the whim of healthcare bosses?
That the NHS is struggling is not disputed, but this was the case prior to Covid. In the Winter of 2017-18, for example, the NHS cancelled tens of thousands of operations and set up makeshift wards due to huge pressures. Then NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens described February 2018 as probably the “most pressurised month NHS has seen in its nearly 70-year history”. Back then, there was no suggestion that people’s freedoms would be sacrificed as a result.
The rallying cry for more restrictions is increasingly being used as a political instrument. As this past week has shown, it has been used to criticise the government and absolve the NHS of any responsibility to better or improve itself. Rather than pushing for more restrictions, the Left would do better to emphasise better management, planning and resourcing of the NHS.
The latest ONS survey, released today, indicates that even in the absence of restrictions, Covid infections have started to fall. But even if they didn’t, the question must be asked: at what point does it become the job of those running the NHS to work around the needs of society, rather than demanding that society is shaped around the needs of the NHS?
Amy Jones is an anonymous medical doctor with a background in philosophy and bioethics. You can find her on Twitter at @skepticalzebra.
This man is a public menace. How can he call for more useless restrictions, for wearing useless face masks when he knows – surely to God, he must know – that THEY DON’T STOP THE PROGRESSION OF A VIRUS that is now endemic, and that they only serve to hurt, disempower and further dissociate people from reality, wrecking livelihoods and tearing apart the very fabric of our lives? Or does he actually believe his own utter claptrap nonsense? Or is this former Blair advisor so complicit in the whole corrupt, satanic power grab that he long ago lost any sense of decency and truth and humanity and is just scared of the jail sentence that surely awaits him if the vile abusive narrative that he’s helped to promulgate finally properly implodes in on itself and a furious public demands accountability and justice? The truth will out.
“No quarter shall be asked, and none given”.
It sounds like this morally bankrupt man should be nowhere near an organisation dealing with ‘health’.
The NHS needs a period of reflection and a dose of humility. Matt Hancock has gone, but I feel this obscures the failings of the NHS. Seeding care homes with infected, the failure to provide high quality PPE, the nosocomial infections, the manner of the rollout of vaccines to healthy children despite JCVI advice, the tik-tok dance routines, the failure to use nightingale hospitals, etc.
The British public needs a strong scrutiny of the NHS role, the part the unions played, its culture, and its failures in the public enquiry.
The NHS gets 44% of the GDP of the world’s 5th largest economy and is the biggest employer in Europe. Yet it struggles with a virus now officially less deadly than seasonal influenza. It’s management class would rather restrict us than admit that their 1950’s style of funding a 21st century health service no longer works.
It’s time we stopped venerating this little microcosm of socialism in a otherwise free country (now officially just seven per cent of GDP away from turning us into a health service with its own country rather than the other way around).
It’s time to do a public/private hybrid model and kick the bureaucrats out; it may also lead to better deal for nurses and NHS staff too.
Please get your facts straight the Dept of Health for England ie NHS budget for 2022 is £160bln the GDP of England is about £1,900 bln (we can argue about how much of the UK GDP accrues to england) so 8.5% GDP spent on health, you can add a further 0.5%GDP spent through private provision. Healthcare has been enormously successful with life expectancy going from 75 to 82 over the last 30 years. For each year you live healthcare advances have added 3 more months to your life. But the other truth is old people healthcare costs many multiples of young people an 80 year old costs over ten times as much annually as a 30 year old, so success in healthcare impoverishes us.
I think rather than 44% of GDP, it is 44% of public expenditure, i.e. our taxes. Still a massive amount, which isn’t used to best effect.
How does a comment whose figures are so blatantly false get numerous upvotes? The UK spends less than 9% of GDP on health, a very low figure compared to most first world nations. It’s irrelevant which model you follow, if the budget isn’t there the service is going to struggle. By way of comparison on a per capita basis, the UK spends around $4.5k on healthcare, while France spend $5.3k, Germany $6.5k and the US a whopping $11k
How does a rational answer, including relevant stats, garner downvotes?
Whether it fits my agenda or not should surely irrelevant.
It’s becoming incredibly partisan
It seems your figures suggest that good healthcare is more about systems and structures than merely budgets.
I mean when people (with the means) are forced to spend their life savings on private operations or face a wait so long its like none treatment. Worse still people are dying though lack of early diagnosis or provision of acute mental health care.
Anyone who thinks this is a National Health Service is surely deluded.
Where is the line when we decide it has failed and needs new thinking.
The life expectancy is 79 in the US, 80 in Germany, 81 in the UK and 82 in France, which would imply that the UK system actually works reasonably well considering it’s much smaller budget than other countries. Perhaps people aren’t dying in as great a numbers as you claim?
Two points. You haven’t established that the difference in life expectancy is both significant and cannot be explained by other factors in different societies (diet, genetics, culture). Also, what matters is not so much how long you live as the number of years with good quality of life and good health.
Taking a measure of expenditure (adjusted for purchasing power parity) to outcomes, used by The Economist Intelligence Unit, is a better way of comparing different countries’ systems. Last time I saw one of their reports, the UK was near the bottom of the richer nations, mostly due to poor outcomes for cancer and other non- transmissible disease. Interestingly, the much vaunted Cuba came out pretty badly for similar reasons.
Nice try. US much fatter. Germany more smoked meats by a country mile and etc. There are lots of variables. The NHS is pathetic. The US leaves people much to their own devices and costs a fortune…. My cousin pays over $2000 per month for health insurance. My friends in the UK use BUPA. Two friends work for the NHS and tell me horror stories. One a social worker the other a psych doctor. Layers of management and politics but no boxes of tissues. Just woeful.
So you’re basing your entire opinion of the health service on two wealthy individuals who can afford to skip the queue?
As it happens I don’t know anybody who has private health insurance in the UK. Whilst people may complain about aspects I do t know a single person who wants private interests to be involved. Leaving it to the market hasn’t exactly been a roaring success with housing, utilities or public transport has it?
I wouldn’t want to see the NHS privatised but would like it to be fit for purpose. Covid has made it even worse as our GPs still try to avoid in person appointments if they can help it!
A return to covid mandates will destroy an already struggling economy and frankly it sickened me the first time round when we were all forced to accept these mandates to “save the elderly and sick” from the inevitable.
I’m not arguing there are areas that it could improve, and in my mind it has become too top heavy and politicised. My point is that people compare it to the German and French models aren’t comparing like for like, as those countries spend 50% and 20% more per capita than the UK on their healthcare systems. If the UK was spending the same amount of money and having far worse outcomes then I’d agree the system may be at fault, but with such a small budget the NHS is always going to be running at near capacity
Many Councils, even those under solid Labour control, use private health facilities for at least some of their staff. Ditto some Unions. You might not know which of your friends have private healthcare as part of their remunerations. The reason for private healthcare is often to avoid the expense of providing cover for key workers and sickpay.
The layers of NHS management are often overestimated, and a lot of the despised ‘bureaucracy’ is actually driven by clinical safety issues. Despite occasional enormities and politically-driven follies, management costs aren’t out of kilter. Here’s a King’s Fund report from 2021:
‘In June 2021 there were 123,727 doctors, 332,341 nursing staff (including midwives and health visitors) and 33,907 managers in the NHS out of a total workforce of 1.2 million (all figures are full-time equivalent). Between 2011 and 2021, the number of doctors and nurses rose while the number of managers is broadly similar (doctors increased by 28 per cent and nurses by 11 per cent between March 2011 to March 2021).’
The overall management figure would be less than 3% on these figures, but they probably exclude strictly clinical management. The definitions are complicated, and the management of outsourced functions won’t feature.
Leaving the US out of it because they use a vastly different model the French seem to do better and the Germans definitely so. If we continue with the hybrid system we now have maybe we should follow more closely the Danish model with Vouchers than can be used wherever is best for the patient..
But as I said, the French spend 20% more on their system, and the Germans 50% more per capita. I’m not going to pretend to have all the data to hand, but do they have substantially better outcomes for that much larger investment?
Is it not time to sack this political place man and replace him with a competent professional manager capable of getting the NHS focused on delivering the service we pay for?
Apparently a large proportion of GPs are only working a three day week now. As for covid, as an elderly asthmatic I caught covid recently and I have experienced flu that produced worse symptoms in the past. I certainly didn’t require hospitalisation or any input from the NHS apart from the testing kit to record the infection and the the app to log it and my experience appears pretty typical. Of course I am glad to have received the vaccine but while the vaccine delivery was organised quite efficiently the vaccine itself was produced by Pfizer.
Regular adverts for Diversity and Equality officers on salaries of £90000/annum indicate the priorities of the service which seems to be to look after the staff first and patients second. Apart from the fact that the workforce already seems extremely diverse, what on earth has such an appointment got to do with the patient on a trolley in A and E or the person waiting for am ambulance at home? The public is slowly waking up to the fact that the NHS is certainly not the envy of the World.
Like most, if not all, public sector organisations, and many private corporations, not to mention the charitable sector, the NHS is drowning in managerialism and woke politics. Every organisation needs a proper proportion of its resourcing to be devoted to efficient administration. And cutting that capacity is always a recipe for crisis.
But … the appointment of non-essential and political ‘commissar’ jobs (for example, diversity/equality officers on annual salaries of £90K+ – God knows what their managers earn!) and the plethora of other non-jobs is a massive drain on resources and organisational morale. Moreover, senior/top management is preoccupied with expanding the depth and breadth of responsibility of its roles to justify constant elevation of already inflated salaries (just check out the salaries of NHS trust chief executives and compare how these have been inflated relative to, say, nursing staff over the past decades).
Management of poor performance is a joke in the public sector – employees with bad attitudes are carried by a system that is not primarily geared to putting the patient/public first but which focuses on political accountability for Westminster/Whitehall agendas.
Almost every health service in the Western democracies, from Australia to Canada and most of Europe, is significantly better than our NHS by virtually every measure. It is time we stopped bulldusting ourselves about the generally appalling levels of healthcare in the UK.
I was recently told by my GP that it would take a minimum of 22 months to see an NHS consultant for a first appointment about a condition (TWENTY-TWO MONTHS)! I could not wait that long so spent nearly £1000 (two 10-minute consultations and an MRI scan), which I can ill afford, just to obtain a diagnosis, no treatment.
Anyone who whines about not wanting to introduce charges in the NHS system is in Cloud Cuckooland. We’re already paying massively on top of the substantial National Insurance taxes we’ve been paying all our working lives.
If you wish to avoid Covid, follow the good book:-
: “ Thou shalt not enter into any NHS facility, nor sup nor eat bread with them, nor polish the golden calf, nor listen to any false prophets till the end of your days, when the evil one shall come amongst us, and all shall rejoice and cry Corona, Corona, wherefore art thou Corona?”
(* Gath. 13:21.)
I have eschewed all contact with the NHS since Covid began. Previously a person who considered it sensible to consult its doctors and nurses, I would now only approach them in a situation of last resort, such as A&E. GPs in particular, who are no longer ‘doctors’ in the old sense, but gatekeepers for specialists and agents for pharmacological salesmen, are to be avoided.
Ministers need to get a grip on the NHS managers playing politics. And they need to get a grip on the problem. At its best the NHS is wonderful, and the people caring for the patients are saintly. At its worst, the NHS is appalling, and the people caring for the patients useless and cruel. Why? What are the good hospitals doing that the bad ones are not? No use asking the quangos. Find some people who can identify best practice and share it. Lose 10% of the staff not concerned with looking after patients. And if no-one notices, lose another 10%. Last but not least, make a plan to break the BMA, which has had over every Government since 1945.
Hoorah! I have been saying this over and over for 2 years. I’m a doctor in Canada. Oddly I don’t feel that my pressures and desires at work give me moral license to micromanage (and destroy) the lives of my fellow citizens. I’ll keep doing my best with limited resources, as I have for the first 23 years of my career.
Whether people want to downhill mountain bike, fly in a batsuit, race motorcycles, or visit their grandmum is up to them.
Why is anyone putting up with this, makes me wonder how we’ve gone off the deep end of things, especially with a world war at our door steps!
Thankfully the Government are ignoring this stuff at the moment, though they should have got a grip a lot earlier. This ‘protect the NHS’ messaging, and the perception that everything that went wrong was Johnson and Hancock’s fault, whilst ignoring the many mistakes made of the last 2 years, shows a deep cultural failure within NHS. It is a culture of lack of accountability, and of an organisation that believes that the public it serves should orientate around it, not the other way round.
I am mentally drained by banging my head against this prevailing view for 2 years, whilst suffering through the on-off imprisonment of lockdowns, etc. My sincere hope is that the public enquiry asks very strong questions, and is not just another tool to support the narrative.
Flatten the curve. Just two more weeks.
Whilst I agree with the sentiment, I’m not sure if Amy Jones is currently working on the front line if she thinks the direct impact of COVID is over. Worst part of the pandemic by a country mile right now – steady loss of staff throughout the pandemic and now COVID isolation is decimating us throughout all departments. Every other day there’s someone who goes off with it and we have cross cover multiple roles simultaneously.
This isn’t to say that I believe ongoing restrictions are in society’s interests. Even to those of us with most to gain from them in the short term, it’s clear that the wider effects would cause more harm than good, even when looked at solely in terms of long term health consequences and not the plethora of other damages.
From the inside I can say it is very much not business as usual. COVID has accelerated many societal trends, one of which will be the demise of the NHS. We have been heading this way for a long time but the weight of COVID is very much still pressing down on the accelerator. To discuss the true situation, we need to acknowledge that the pandemic hasn’t gone away yet, but in spite of this we still need to avoid further restrictions doing more harm than good.
I think I would do a better job of running the NHS starting with charging a sliding scale of fees for services. Free services are always abused – just ask the NHS.
So private healthcare? Put that to the electorate and see how many votes you get!
No, a subsidised healthcare. I didn’t say private. Anyway, I knew a long time ago that the NHS was going to fail and fail it has. You only have to sit in a waiting room in the doctors room and witness the message ‘1200’ whatever people haven’t appeared for their appointments. And then have a 3 minute appointment (twice, which I payed for) for which I was given antibiotics that were not indicated for my condition to know this was a sh1tshow barrelling towards complete failure.
But you’d still have to pay for it? No thanks.
Also most of the GP surgery’s in the UK are actually privately run, they simply get paid by the health service for the number of patients they see. Perhaps your solution isn’t as great as you claim, as your experience of this type of service was rather negative?
I paid because I’m not British. Money completely wasted. The rest of the people including the 2000 whatever no shows in 3 months (in one surgery) did not pay. Useless service born out by millions of others complaining for years. Stop trying to defend the indefensible.
In my experience, many people would rather avoid unpleasant reality because it’s frightening ie. the fact that the NHS is hopelessly inefficient and run for the benefit of its employees with no accountability at any level, than face facts and deal with upheaval and difficult decisions. Our political classes are moral cowards whose modus vivendi never rises above the level of immediate self-interest, hence no serious attempts to rethink the system, just throw a bit more of OUR money at it.
But as I’ve mentioned above, the UK actually throws less taxpayer money at the NHS than the Germans, French or Americans, and has a life expectancy better than 2 of those countries. I’m not going to sit here and claim the NHS is perfect, far from it, it is top heavy and in need of reform, but for the amount that’s asked of it and a much smaller budget than similar nations I believe it performs rather well
Ahahahaha. Set the bar a bit higher.
My mother is 94 years old, confused, incontinent and wracked with pain. She has been in an isolation ward, forbidden from any contact with her family for three weeks because of this zealot and his idiotic, inhumane restrictions. He needs to shut up and get his house in order
Was it anticipated when the NHS was founded that the corollary of public funding of healthcare for all was far greater State control over citizen’s lives?
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe