Sunday, 8 April 2012

Socialism reborn - Welsh Labour and the NHS

The NHS in Wales is in real difficulties. The budget has been slashed (before inflationary effects are taken into account) by about 9% this year. This spells trouble for the Welsh NHS. A medical service whose costs are constantly growing because of increasing demands from an aging population, requires more resources, not less. Yet the Labour Government in Cardiff thought it can get away with it. This onslaught on the Welsh NHS has been long planned and carefully prepared by the then Health Minister Edwina Hart. She made sure that the NHS now collects less performance related data than ever in its history. Transparency of the service and how it measures up to clinical benchmarks is at an all time low. Performance targets were removed by the Labour politicians in case they may turn out to embarrass them.
Yet for some, the dire straits of the Welsh NHS are all the fault of the evil doctors who work every day in its wards and clinics. The Bevan Foundation, a socialist Think Tank has just published a pamphlet by a Welsh clinician, Julian Tudor Hart (no relation), who argues that the NHS should be further nationalised and general practitioners, who are currently working under a contract with the NHS, should be forced to work as employees of the NHS with fixed salaries. 
His pamphlet is sprinkled with vacuous slogans, but the ultimate aim of his proposals for the NHS is revealed in the last paragraph. The document culminates in a phrase straight out of Stalin’s writings: ‘We need to make Wales NHS into the property of the people, personally and collectively – a national institution shared and owned by everyone... This is the only way to ensure it will never be taken away, and that Wales NHS can resume development as a potential birthplace for democratic socialism.’ Taken away by whom? Aliens? Evil doctors? Or even patients perhaps? 
Anybody remember what happens to institutions and organisations that are allegedly ‘owned by everyone’? Yes, no one feels any responsibility for it. The fact is that Hart’s wish to make the NHS ‘owned by everyone’ reflects a breathtaking ignorance of the dynamics of large scale organisations, of which, incidentally, the NHS is one of the biggest in the world with more than 1 million employees in the UK. If he thinks that commitment and work discipline can be instilled in the people who work there by telling them that ‘they own the place’ is naive at best, crooked at worst. 
As Leo Trotzky wrote long time ago about the Soviet soialism: if everyone owns everything, no one owns anything. We know where this all ended, don’t we?

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