Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Equality At Any Price?

Brian Gould was one of the key architects of New Labour, and thus from a tribal perspective I am not a fan. The impartial political anorak in me does recognise, though, that he was very effective in his role; something not to be forgotten in any assessment of Blair’s rise and of the other players (Mandelson, Campbell, et al.)

Putting politics aside, I have found his story of his own battle with cancer of great interest, and naturally I hope he pulls through.

The Royal Marsden Hospital - Sutton. This is t...

The Royal Marsden Hospital

One point that caught my political eye, though, was buried in part two of that story, published today by those evil Murdochians at The Times (£). Here, Gould is comparing the culture of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the U.S. anti-cancer hospital in which he underwent part of his treatment, with the Royal Marsden, itself a specialist in cancer care:

The Marsden is, of course, an NHS hospital, and although it gains 30 per cent of its revenue through private patients (of which I am one), this does not fundamentally affect the character of the institution. Patients feel less empowered than in the United States, and patients are probably treated with more efficiency there, but the culture at the Marsden is warmer, less transactional and much more egalitarian. [Emphasis mine.]

So, the lack of efficiency (which, let’s face it, means that we’re not getting the maximum value of care and treatment from every pound) and lack of empowerment (adding to the sense of helplessness felt by the patient and their loved ones) is made up for by a warmer culture and … egalitarianism? Do all the architects of Labour’s success in the late Nineties and Noughties genuinely think that equality is worth the sacrificing of such core elements of any healthcare system?

Treatment available to all, free at the point of delivery, is fine – that’s describing any decent insurance system. However, I’m sorry, but to regard egalitarianism in healthcare as an end in itself smacks of warped priorities, particularly (though I appreciate this probably wasn’t the interpretation intended) in an area where by necessity some will need greater resources per head than others. The trouble with the egalitarian mindset is that it is subject to the ideological equivalent of ‘mission creep’ (viz. the recent ECJ ruling on women’s insurance premiums).

Let’s take, as an example, another field dominated by state provision: education. It’s as if we mustn’t applaud the success of one school or type of school, or in any way promote them, because that would be to talk down – nay, condemn – the others. So as long as everyone is equal, then we can take comfort that we are all subsisting at the same level of mediocrity. Really?

Sadly, in the case of grammar schools at least, it seems that the blind pursuit of equality at all costs is an ideal that still runs deep, even on the other side of the political spectrum to Lord Gould’s.

The third and final part of Lord Gould’s story is tomorrow. Again, tribalism aside, here’s hoping for a good outcome.

(Pic. credit: Jean Barrow CC Sharealike 2.0)
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