Privatised DH will compete for best policy at lowest price
In the latest move aimed at creating more choice and competition in the NHS, the Department of Health is to be privatised.
The new-look department, to be renamed MyHealthAgenda Plc, will no longer have a monopoly on policy advice and guidance, which from now on will be developed in what the government calls “a diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurial private providers”.
The government has long been known to be unhappy with having to rely on a single source of advice on health and social care policy.
“Introducing competition will mean that we will have a much wider choice of policies. Market forces will also ensure we pay the best possible price for them,” it said in a statement.
Observers acknowledged that the public sector had been hampered by the “single provider model”, which limited the availability of ideas and kept prices artificially high.
Professor Eva Lewis-Grip of think-tank Realitas, the author of the scheme, said: “The problem with the one policy at a time approach is that it puts all your eggs in one basket. Typically what happens is that government comes up with a policy and then has to wait years to see if it works. In most cases it’s barely under way before a new government comes in and changes everything. But in a pluralist system you can implement a whole series of competing policies at the same time and let the market decide which is best.”
Experts agree that having a single direction for each major policy area artificially constrains commissioners and providers of NHS services. “Whether you’re talking about broad policy objectives or regulatory detail, the one-size-fits-all model only ever works for some people some of the time. Why not give organisations a choice?” said Lewis-Grip.
Multiple government policies would also have political benefits. By trying to resolve competing aims governments inevitably end up contradicting themselves and disappointing large numbers of voters.
“We know that some people don’t like the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Not liking things is unacceptable in a democratic society, so what we propose is that in future we could have two or more health and social care acts and people could choose the one that suits them,” a government spokesman said.
Multiple policies would also allow ministers to duck difficult questions, avoid conflicts between conviction politics and populism and render u-turns unnecessary, making it possible for even the most inept government to cling to power for years.
Private sector leaders are firmly behind the new plans.
Said one: “For too long a handful of big unscrupulous organisations curried favour behind closed doors in the corridors of power. Now there will be a much more level playing field for unscrupulous organisations of all kinds.”