Health dilemma

THE juxtaposition of two reports highlights, inadvertently or otherwise, one of the longlasting inefficiencies that continues to undermine the effectiveness of the National Health Service. No-one should be surprised by the research which concludes that fit people are less likely to get colds than their less active counterparts – it did not require high-powered research to make this correlation.

Yet, given the last government's commitment to the NHS, and the record sums that it spent addressing health inequalities, it is perturbing that MPs are now suggesting that GPs should be paid even more money to work in disadvantaged, inner-city areas, because insufficient time is being spent improving the wellbeing of the less well-off.

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Given the extent to which GP salaries rose under New Labour, justifiably so in many instances, today's Public Accounts Committee report is, effectively, another admission that Labour did not spend sufficient time ensuring that taxpayers received value for money. At least Margaret Hodge, the committee's chairman and a former Labour minister, recognised that the last government did not do enough to tackle inequality. So many of her colleagues continue to be in denial about the policy failures of the past 13 years.

Her committee's remedy – the spending of even more money – is simply not feasible in the current climate. Conversely, ignoring the issue will be equally counter-productive. By not providing appropriate support to those who are obese, for example, such individuals will continue to be a drain on the country's finances.

It is yet another conundrum that the coalition Government has had the misfortune to inherit. But, given its commitment to fighting for equality, it should not be beyond the Tories, and Liberal Democrats, to come up with a policy that is both sustainable and affordable. They can't do any worse than their predecessors.