Everyone as an opinion on their Health Service. Enoch Powell saw through its weaknesses in 1976.

The small book by Enoch Powell “Medicine and Politics 1975 and after” (his period was 3 years as Health Minister) should be obligatory reading for all doctors. He could less politely have said that the Emperor has no clothes. . Read a review by retired BMJ Editor Richard Smith. 

He tells us that of course the health care is rationed, and that this is deliberate but covert. He (page 37) discusses some methods of rationing, but since his day we have invented many more than the waiting lists and waiting times that he refers to.

Parkinson’s Law of Hospital Beds (page 43) “asserts that the number of patients always tends to equality with the number of beds available for them to lie in”. But he was not aware that clever administrators can use trolleys, but not count them as beds. Therefore more and new covert rationing….

Finally I wish to quote his last word on rationing:

“It is unfortunate that the nature and value of rationing by waiting and by ineligability in the NHS are not recognised, at least by the professions (and by implication the rest of the country). For these are the features that make it possible to avoid invidious discrimination in administering the service and, at the same time, secure a certain rational allocation of priorities. Instead, these features are treated as evidence of “inadequacy” and as blemishes that it lies within the power of politicians to remove, given the will.”

Richard Smith non-medical blogs on Enoch Powell’s book – The best book ever written about the politics of the NHS

The Socialist Health Association also summarises the book (A large part or almost all – I failed to spot omissions)

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Commissioning, Patient representatives, Political Representatives and activists, Professionals, Rationing, Trust Board Directors on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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