NHS: Fatal Distraction?

As Iraq fades into ancient history our beloved media have had to cast around for something else to fill the column inches over the Bank Holiday weekend, and once again the spotlight has fallen on the good old NHS.

This time it is the plan to turn some of the better behaved hospital Trusts into Foundation Hospitals, in theory more autonomous and less under 'direct' Whitehall control. This is sparking a Labour backbench revolt, led by the antediluvian Frank Dobson who did so much to wreck the NHS and demoralize staff when he was at the helm. The irony is that the Tories, who invented 'self-governing' hospital Trusts in the first place, look set to vote against them this time round. That's just plain silly - but what we have come to expect from Irritable Dowel Syndrome and his cronies.

It may have taken a while, but Alan Milburn has at last recognised that "You can't run the National Health Service as if it's the Chinese Red Army, from an office in Whitehall." Devolving power and responsibility is a sound management principle for a vast, monolithic organization: Margaret Thatcher new that. The main problem with the current plan is that, to start with, only selected hospitals will earn Foundation status. This is the real divisive issue. Alan and Tony should take courage and go the whole hog: make us all Foundation Hospitals at a stroke. That should disarm the critics.