"Cost-effective" can mean only one thing in the NHS - cuts on our backs!

24 October 2006

"NICE", the ill-named body which is meant to vet medicines and procedures provided by the NHS, has declared against the provision of a bone cancer drug which helps to prolong patients' lives. This drug is provided by the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it will not be offered in England because it is not "cost effective".

One wonders what is the cost of a few years, or even months of life, for the well-heeled members of NICE? But then, of course, these people can always go private, should they need such drugs!

"Cost effectiveness" has been the watchword behind the NHS backdoor privatisation for decades now. It is what is supposed to "energize" Labour's internal NHS health market.

In the name of "cost-effectiveness" 3/4 of NHS trusts are cutting jobs, closing down wards and even entire hospitals, to make up for deficits. Although there is precious little news about it in the media, dozens of marches and protests of all sorts have been taking place lately up and down the country against such cuts: from Cambridge (200 jobs cut) to Manchester (1,200 jobs), Nottingham (5,000 jobs across East Midlands), Birmingham (1,200 jobs), Brighton (500 jobs) and even Eastbourne, where the A&E is under threat.

But "cost-effectiveness" only works one way for Labour. PFI may be the most expensive way of building or refurbishing NHS facilities, but it still remains Blair's and Brown's favourite. Just as the new government-sponsored gimmick - the private "treatment centres"- are the most expensive way of providing specialist care. In neither of these case does "cost-effectiveness" apply. But has this government ever been mean, when it came to lining the pockets of rich private shareholders?