As the Assembly seeks new legislative powers and as the general election approaches, is there still time to build the new Jerusalem somewhere along the M4?
Wales has eschewed much of the New Labour agenda as its fledgling Assembly increased in strength and bathed in clear red water. Within the NHS the use of market forces as a deliberate tool of policy to spur efficiency has been read the last rites as the new Health Boards come into being. NHS Wales is not in hock to expensive PFI schemes. Even England is now thinking of scrapping hospital car parking charges.
Obama struggles against the power of vested insurance and other interests in the USA as enough of that country continues to believe that Government is “bad” and individual freedom is “good”. Financial institutions have been seen to have no clothes as the complicated financial instruments which they invented and sold have managed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich whilst simultaneously mortgaging the future earning power of most economies for the next decade. All this from a creed bowing before the wisdom of the market. “Wise” bankers who created the mess command millions “because they’re worth it” while the genial Terry Wogan’s daily army of 7 million TOGS seemingly cannot justify his more modest BBC fee just because it is paid by a public body acting for us all.
Is it too much to ask that the NHS – the antithesis of marked-based approaches to creating and distributing one form of wealth (personal and collective health) – should continue to show that an alternative creed can, and does make sense? Is it hoping for too much to expect the new Welsh Health Boards to cherish the Welsh tradition of solidarity that spawned the NHS and re-invent it for the 21st century? And is it still a good thing to have public services staffed by people whose worth and “output” is judged by the good they do, rather than by the price some arcane system of mathematics places on the few bits of healthcare it thinks it can value?
Tony Beddow, Visiting Professor, WIHSC