Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Partial, and indeed partial

In today's column, Polly Toynbee writes of Bolingbroke hospital that:

[i]t has a day hospital for some 15 elderly patients, with out-patients and imaging diagnostics.

This at best partial, it also provides a GP out of hours surgery, podiatry and community dental services (source).


She also writes that:

...empty wards cost a fortune, not counting the heat billowing out, which can't be cut off in unused wings. St George's trust, which owns this hospital, has to pay a percentage on all its capital assets to the NHS, under an accounting system designed to ensure that assets are not underused...

Unused capital and land does of course incur a cost, and it is good to see this recognised.  However, some empty wards are more costly than others.

One of the reasons people are upset about the planned closure of the Bolingbroke hospital is that the NHS trust spent around £2m refurbishing the hospital months before announcing its closure in 2005.  It was at best economic with the truth when talking about the cost of the refurbishment, originally claiming it spent around £600,00.  The refurbishment also failed to rectify fire hazards in the hospital, which had been known about since 1989 (see, for example, this news story).

This isn't to say that the hospital should close, of course.  We all find ourselves susceptible to the sunk cost fallacy -- throwing good money after bad.  It does, however, mean that there are legitimate concerns to be raised about the financial and managerial acuity of those involved in local healthcare provision. 

For Polly to claim that opponents of the closure -- generally from people from political parties of which she doesn't approve -- are running  "mendacious" local campaigns without actually citing a specific example of mendacity, and to decry this as "pure politics", seems, well, hypocritical.

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