Link: BBC NEWS | Health | Hospital bug deaths 'scandalous'.
I am glad I didn't blog immediately about this. The reactions are more interesting than the story itself. That NHS hospitals are filthy is no surprise to any Briton. The NHS is one of the three largest employers on Earth (with the Peoples' Liberation Army and Indian Railways). If we don't work there ourselves, we all know someone who does. If we have not been treated there ourselves, we have visited a friend or relative in hospital.
Reactions to the story are ridiculous, whether from "left" or "right." Those for whom the NHS is the Holy Grail of the True Faith spin this as a failure of local management, and demand firm reprisals and a purge. The errant comrades must be firmly punished for their betrayal of the Service's Socialist values. They react , in short, exactly as the Chinese Communist Party does to the occasional token corruption case; (a) make an example of a "class traitor" to confirm the purity of the system; and (b) continue to lead the same life as the disgraced former comrade.
As Guthrum laments, there is no real understanding of liberty in modern Britain. The so-called "right" are merely another pack of Statists on a slightly different "make," aching to pull the levers of the same huge, inefficient machine. Therefore they too demand that heads should roll. As they are out of office, they are prepared to call for them to roll in the responsible Ministry as well as in the local organisation.
In calling for punishment of errant bureaucrats, both "left" and "right" are telling a more profound truth than they know. Any centrally-planned mechanism for the delivery of anything, whether it be missiles to our enemies or socialised health-care to our masses, must depend on command, control and discipline. The 20th Century taught us that this is the only alternative to markets. There is a reason why "command economies" earned that name.
Where patients choose their doctors and (on professional advice) their hospitals, health-care facilities depend on satisfied patients to provide livelihoods to those who work in them. The "cruel, harsh market" will effortlessly ensure that each hospital is clean, because otherwise no patient will choose it. Nor will any family doctor risk a negligence claim for referring a patient to it. Adam Smith's invisible hand will take lazy cleaners by the ear and guide their labours. Managers will be steered by the same invisible hand because they will be directly accountable to shareholders who will suffer personal losses if the hospital is sued (as opposed to Ministers who can pay the damages from taxpayers' money). There is no need for extreme punishment to achieve simple outcomes. The market will apply millions of invisible sticks and carrots, second by relentless second.
Clearly, if even Dr De'Ath over at the usually libertarian Devil's Kitchen blog (sigh) believes that "privatisation" is part of the problem, many of us doubt this. From the comments at the BBC website, one would believe that if the cleaners were State employees (as opposed to merely being under contract to the same) all would be well. What tosh.
The token gesture of "outsourcing" cleaning services has done nothing more than take thousands of State employees "off balance sheet". It is the employment equivalent of the Private Finance Initiative. The terms of the contracts are set and enforced by State apparatchiks. Managers who accept poor service from contractors would have accepted the same from employees. The nurses who told patients to soil their beds because they were "too busy" to bring bedpans were direct employees, were they not? Q.E.D.
The reactions to the story show that nothing has been learned. If you believe in the NHS and you are on the "left", you will think that higher taxes and more aggressive "command and control" are required. If you believe in the NHS and you are on the "right," you will think the latter will suffice. If you don't believe in the NHS in the face of all the evidence against it, you are probably neither British nor Michael Moore and must by now be completely mystified.