British politicians squabbled this week over whether controversial reforms to the country's national health insurance would help strip away the ailing system's bureaucracy or worsen it. At issue was the proposed sacking of a mass of National Health Service bureaucrats and a dramatic restructuring of the bodies that control some health care payments.
In a rowdy House of Commons session Wednesday, Labor party leader Ed Miliband said the planned layoffs of NHS employees would cost the government nearly $1.4 billion in "redundancy payments," and that many of these fired workers would nonetheless go on to get rehired by one of the numerous organizations created by the reforms.
According to Labor figures, under the new plan, the number of health-related government bodies will balloon from 163 to at least 521. Labor said the figures are based on evidence provided by Dr. Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, according to a Daily Mail writeup.
But Prime Minister David Cameron accused Miliband of resisting reforms because he was in the "pocket of the unions," and said the Conservatives' bureaucracy-abolishing proposals would bring $8 billion in savings, part of the $32 billion in cuts NHS is supposed to make by 2015.
The Conservatives said under the plan, 151 primary care trusts and 10 strategic health authorities would be scrapped. In their stead would go clinical commissioning consortia, although it's not yet known how many of those there would be.
Earlier this month, the Tory-led government unveiled changes to the NHS reform package, originally intended to increase competition, but which many oppose as a form of "backdoor privatization." This week, at a meeting of the British Medical Association, representatives voted 59 percent to 35 percent to pull the plug on the proposed reforms.