THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Stepping in the same river twice
Are they rude, or am I out of date?

When will they ever learn?

Watching Question Time from my old stamping-ground of North-East Wales this week (Paine the Elder and I used to have season tickets to Wrexham AFC when I was a lad) was a dispiriting experience. I could barely contain myself as, commenting on the care homes scandal, a Plaid Cymru MP droned pompously that;

"Once the profit motive takes over from the giving of service, that kind of thing is more prevalent".

Most of the audience in a solidly Old-Labour area seemed to agree with him. Even after their ideology was tested to destruction on more than half of humanity in the 20th Century; killing millions and impoverishing hundreds of millions, there are still idiots who believe in the intrinsic moral superiority of state-run services. Even, can you believe, in a part of the world where childrens homes were run for twenty years by local authority-employed paedophiles (as I have posted before)? The social workers in question were not motivated by profit, so presumably that's all right then? I despair.

When I worked in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, a colleague had a serious road accident while exploring the countryside one weekend. The people sent to help found him in a bad way in the local hospital. Knowing how health care in that country had worked under Communism (and still did at that point) he asked to be left a supply of $100 bills so he could bribe the staff not to let him die. Those nurses were motivated by profit for sure, but the organisation running the hospital wasn't.

When can we bury these ludicrous (and insulting) notions that people are ping-pong balls wafted around by social, political and economic winds? My blood boiled particularly as a woman in the QT audience said the people who committed the care home abuses were "...probably on minimum wage..." while somebody made "...a fat profit..." I can hardly conceive of a less relevant observation.

Right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of motive. Profit made by people for doing good work is good. Profit made by cheating customers of the service they pay for (whether it's plumbing, rubbish collection or the care of vulnerable family members) is wrong. The same applies to wages earned by employees in public service, whether on the "front line" or in management. None of the wicked behaviours captured by Panorama's hidden cameras would have been less so if filmed on NHS or local authority premises (as the BBC could easily have done) or even in a charity home run by unpaid volunteers.

If carers neglect or abuse the people they are paid to look after, then the issue is not whether their bosses were motivated by profit for their shareholders, or by a desire for a cushy job-for-life with an unfunded pension. The issue is their wicked behaviour, for which they are directly responsible (both as a matter of civil and criminal law) and their employer is vicariously liable. Heads should roll, contracts should be cancelled and the local authority supervisors who failed to monitor the service they were paying our money for should be disciplined.

It's a little depressing that the debate has not moved on in that part of the world in the thirty or so years since I moved away.


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Yes I am dying to finish it but only noticed the error while off the 'net in rural France... [Back in London now, and have corrected the omission. My apologies]


there are still idiots who believe in the intrinsic moral superiority of state-run services

This is our political divide, Tom.

Suboptimal Planet

Great article Tom, though I'd love to know how this sentence ends:

"Heads should roll, contracts should be cancelled and the local authority supervisors who"

Single Acts of Tyranny

Exactly right, it is simply not possible to have a reasonable debate with people who regard the NHS or what ever else in the public sector, as quasi-religous. I recall one time at the races having a drink thrown at me by a nurse when I suggested that if car plants were badly run by the government, shouldn't we at least consider that hospitals maybe similarly badly run.

Usually nurses understandably throw drinks at me, for entirely different suggestions.


Can I propose a simple experiment?

Simply stop paying wages to NHS nurses, or any state employees for that matter. We'll see pretty quickly how many of them are not motivated by profit.

Peter Whale

I do not know of any case where a patient has died from thirst or hunger in a private hospital but there are a number of cases in the not for profit NHS.

Totally agree.

Leftists like to argue that it is a massive risk to introduce the market into social care and that the very concept is some kind of crazy ideology that will sap the inherent goodness from state run services. It is an argument that sadly but unsurprisingly goes unchallenged in the mainstream media. Even the Daily Mail, supposed bastion of the loony right in many leftists' eyes, was at it last week. Scare stories about dodgy businessmen running social services for evil profit, generates much interest but doesn't tell anywhere near the whole story. That being that we need more private provision to generate real choice and drive up standards, and that NHS provisioning of services and quality checking is woefully inadequate, so poor quality goes unpunished (although this is often down to lack of choice as per the previous point).

The real ideology is displayed by those resisting reform and a greater role for private providers. Stuck in a socialist mindset from the 1950's they refuse to countenance the idea that anybody other than employees of the state can be trusted to care for the vulnerable. This despite decades of evidence that the opposite is true.

I've blogged about it myself: - Follow the link to my previous post about the private sector in the NHS for a typical left wing response in the comments.

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