Spreading the blame

Your editorial "Ministers will take the blame" (25 October) on the government's targets for health and education warns that ministers are, for once, in danger of having to face the music if they fail to live up to the now impossibly high expectations of the public. Perhaps you are giving the government just a smidgen too much credit.

The NHS reforms are primarily designed to shift the proverbial can on to the local primary care groups who will be holding the budgets for all health services in their area and deciding how the money will be spent. As and when there are public complaints about the quality or quantity of services provided, ministers will simply point to those doctors and nurses running the groups and happily apportion the blame.

Meanwhile, the NHS is being rebranded as NHS Direct, so that the government can be seen to be doing all it possibly can to improve patient services while those nasty old doctors just keep getting in the way. It is this public relations masterplan for which new Labour really deserves credit.

Colin Cooper
Editor, Medeconomics
London W6

This article first appeared in the 08 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - To uplift the souls of the people