It is probably true that a nation gets the healthcare it deserves, but does Britain deserve new Labour's NHS plan? 'A plan for investment, a plan for reform' is the subtitle for the proposals that are envisaged to restore the NHS to the healthcare system the world most envies. The plan contains many targets, particularly for responding to patients' demands, and is backed by monetary investment that aims to compensate for the years of lower expenditure in the UK compared with other countries. Details of the how and when of achieving these targets is sparse and some sections of the medical profession have reacted strongly against a few of the proposals.
So what is the biblical model for healthcare? This sounds a bit like the question the lawyer put to Jesus (Parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10: 25-37). Healthcare should involve identifying the needs of the patient and then ensuring the healthcarer provides for those needs by becoming the patient's servant, expending professional skill, time and effort to heal the sick and comfort those he cannot heal.
As Christians we can support the founding principles of the NHS and much of this plan is based upon them, but the plan also endorses some things that we must resist in order to prevent further damage to our healthcare system. One example is the private finance initiative introduced in 1992 for hospital building projects. This is now the main way of financing hospital building but was discredited as bad stewardship of taxpayer's money by a well researched series of BMJ articles published before the NHS plan was devised.
A new King's Fund report criticises the Department of Health for sanctioning £1.4 billion of investment in private finance initiative schemes without any strategic view for the future roles of the hospitals and before the national bed inquiry had reported.
Despite the plan's shortcomings there is still much to support and CMF members must continue to strive to serve our patients with compassion and not financial considerations as our motivation.