Debate Magazine

Ventilator Blues*

Posted on the 19 March 2020 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From The Daily Mirror:
Under-funding over a decade means NHS is lacking equipment and intensive care doctors - the government now wants factories to switch up production line in bid to battle disease  
Woah there!
1. However much money you give the NHS, they will always spend all of it and want more. There is practically no upper limit on treatments they could offer and provide. (When I lived in Germany in the 1980s, there were no waiting lists and superb service, more or less free at point of use, so people went to the doctors with the most minor ailments or conditions that any Brit would just learn to live with.) The NHS gets what is gets, and is responsible for rationing and providing treatment in the most cost-effective way.
2. Does the NHS do a great job overall? Yes. Could it be better for the same money? Also yes. They don't do "joined up".
3. The Tories have increased annual NHS spending by a lower rate than New Labour did, but they have still increased it year on year. There seem to be far fewer stories about rampant waste and corruption, like £10 billion on the NHS Spine, so it seems that the NHS has responded to the less generous budget by trimming the fat (hooray), but I'm sure there is still some fat left to be trimmed.
4. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but who, if anybody, should have seen this coming? Experts in the NHS or some here-today-gone-tomorrow Health Minister battling with daily crap? It's the NHS's budget and they decide what to prioritise, like cancelling non-essential operations.
5. Let's assume the NHS really needs 100,000 ventilators, seems like a fair estimate, and that their experts should have seen this coming years or decades ago. As far as I can make out, ventilators cost about £10,000 each (if anybody knows better, please leave a comment).
6. So they could have started stockpiling them ten years ago, 10,000 every year, annual outlay £100 million. This sounds like a lot of money, but it's about 0.1% of the NHS annual budget, or about £1.50 per UK resident per year.
7. But they didn't, and whose decision was it?
* Song from Exile on Main Street.

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