The NHS, the Police Service: Is it wrong of public services to raise funds through private sources?

Posted: February 1, 2012 in Discussion, Opinions, Political, Uncategorized
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The National Health Service (NHS) and the Police Service are public service bodies: long-standing and respected institutions: institutions operating within finite budgets; required to make financial savings against the demands of a perpetual population; and with a finite number of staff to undertake that work.

Whilst not “new”, the article written in the Guardian (December 2011), “Plan to let NHS trusts raise half of income from private healthcare”,  by James Meikle became more relevant to me with the publishing of the article in the Telegraph, Jan 2012, by Robert Mendick, “Virgin Media secretly pays police for fraud investigation”.

This article is not written in relation to the percentage of income that could potentially be raised from private healthcare, or how much Virgin Media allegedly paid to the police for fraud investigation.

I wish to look at the how, in my humble opinion, these two situations are similar; and to ask the ask the question “Why is it acceptable for one institution to raise funds through independent means and not the other?”

As the “Telegraph” and “Guardian” articles clearly identify both the NHS and the Police Service have legitimate means of accessing private income: whether this be through charging for the policing football matches or airports in the case of the Police Service or by the undertaking of private healthcare by the NHS.

When these institutions accept such extracurricular activity, there is no sudden increase in resources to facilitate the task; something has to give.

In the NHS this could mean the cancellation of a NHS operation, or the loss of an Intensive Care bed. Increasing the amount of income raised from private healthcare will subsequently result in an increase in the reduction in the amount of NHS work available.

In the Police Service, this could equate to a delay in attending a domestic violence call, or the delay in resolving a case.

The police have taken a bashing in relation to charges of being in receipt of illegal payments from the “News of the World”:  investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Whether it is because of this previous case there is an interest in “Virgin Media” it his hard to say.

However, I am sure that in any instance of a public body being in receipt of private funds, or investment, there will always be ethical and moral debate over whether it is right or not.

I do not believe it was wrong of Virgin Media to offer payment nor for the police to accept it. I am more sceptical in the debate over whether it is right for the NHS to receive income from private healthcare; private donations from medical companies being another debate.

So is it acceptable for one institution to raise funds through independent means and not the other? I do not believe it is; equality and transparency throughout.

There is another institution that has been over looked, the Fire Service. The fire service can charge for all non-emergency call outs, including calls to road traffic accidents; thus raise funds through independent means.

Why question the others?


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