How to squander money like a sailor on shore leave

Official guidance from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Social Care has just stated categorically that couples having trouble conceiving must receive three cycles of IVF at the expense of the NHS. The deputy CEO of NICE, some person with no real connection with reality, has said that involuntary infertility can have ‘devastating consequences’ on the couple involved and that infertility treatment should be a core service despite spending constraints.

I think this is nonsense, and I’ll tell you why. When my then wife and I found that a longed-for pregnancy wasn’t going to happen, we did some serious soul searching. Yes, it was a deeply saddening finding, but we agreed we’d not use up NHS resources on what was effectively a selfish set of procedures. IVF costs in the region of £3500 per cycle, so three cycles will cost £10,500. That’s a lot of money, and there are lots of infertile couples in the UK.

Now my personal axe to grind. The NHS is refusing to countenance knee replacement for my ageing limbs. The reasoning here is that I’m too young, and that the operation might need to be carried out again at a later date if the original fails. Knee replacement and aftercare costs about £7000. That’s less than three courses of IVF, and that’s ignoring the costs of pre- and postnatal care, costs of child benefits and tax concessions, costs of schooling. I have to say I feel as if I’m being penalised here. Childlessness is very saddening, as I know to my cost, but to be honest I can see better ways of spending £10,500 of the NHS’s stretched funds.

Some more madness. There’s a plot afoot to have employers incentivise schemes to reduce levels of obesity, smoking, and drinking among their staff. I can’t see employers being too pleased about getting stiffed for the costs here, so we get more money taken from public coffers and tipped into the pockets of private companies such a WeightWatchers. It’s odd there was a public outcry about the idea of the health service ‘penalising’ obese smokers by denying them treatment unless they change their ways, but nobody thinks that an incentive is a bad idea. Incidentally, the report was a joint effort between NHS England, Public Health England, and the Care Quality Commission, which are clearly duplicating effort and burning money as only quangoes can. We could save a few bob by eliminating them, couldn’t we? Fire a researcher and I could have both my knees fixed while I’m still young enough to enjoy the restored mobility, and there’d still be cash left over.

One last thing. Some lunatic has recommended that GPs should be given £55 for every dementia patient they diagnose. Why pay them more for doing what they’re employed to do, and for which they are paid quite well? Let’s ignore the ethics of making patients into commodities, and the fact that dementia services are already pretty much at breaking point, so more diagnoses will just lead to more pressure.

I’m a massive fan of the NHS, since I’ve always lived under its protection. I hate to see what’s happening to it, and the lack of focus on priorities.

Right, I’ve had my say.

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