Kevin Barron – Health Questions

Here is Kevin asking a question in Parliament, courtesy of the excellent BBC Democracy Live feature.

Now I know it shouldn’t matter, but he does look very smug here, having asked his friendly question to which he already knows the answer about the amount of funding in the NHS per head now, compared to what it was 10 years ago.

Naturally the figure is higher now than it was 10 years ago – two things tell you that; firstly your understanding of inflation and demographics, and secondly the fact that otherwise Kevin Barron wouldn’t have asked the question he already knows the answer too.

The actual figures, reported with glee by Andy Burnham, surprised me. Next year the NHS will spend £1,600 per head of population. That’s for every man, woman and child.  That’s an awful lot of money to come out of taxation, given all the other things it has to cover. In 1999 the figure was £426 per head of population, apparently.

Now I’m sure NHS hospitals are nicer than they were 10 years ago – but so they should be – that’s an increase of  over 375% per person. Whilst that might sound great, I can’t help but think that the NHS wasn’t so bad in 1999, and it certainly isn’t 375% better now. Spending buckets loads of our cash is only good if it is affordable and done efficiently. I can’t see that this has necessarily been done here.

I can’t imagine Kevin Barron, or anyone else having this conversation:

That’s a nice suit.

Thanks, I got it from John Lewis, it was £1,000

Oh – I saw them in there, but I’m sure they were £265.

Yes they are £265, but I paid £1,000 for mine anyway

Ah, that must make your suit somehow better.

Yes, it does

My point is that ‘paying a lot’ doesn’t in any way guarantee you are getting value for money. In fact it is often the opposite. I don’t see any reason for Mr Barron to look so pleased with himself.

It’s also disingenuous of a man who is campaigning for a minimum charge of 50p per unit of alcohol to be implying that increased spending per head is automatically, and unquestioningly, a good thing. The main reason for Kevin Barron’s proposal of minimum alcohol pricing is that doing so will reduce the cost to the NHS of alcohol related illness, currently running at £2.7 billion per year – or roughly £45 per head of population.  He wants to see that figure reduced, and if he is successful in doing so – and let’s hope he is – then the spending per head on the NHS could go down, without having any effect on service levels at all. His implication that more money spent means better service, is, by his own logic, shown to be nonsense. Not that is stops him wasting parliamentary time asking pointless questions just so he can smugly listen to the answer knowing full well that knowing how much has been spent is basically meaningless without knowing what it was spent on.


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