Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moore Steaks Seared

Sicko Slams the NHS

Michael Moore is rarely out of the news. His particular brand of docu-drama has a following, not just in North America, but around the English-speaking world. He does what he does very well.

He has turned his own particular brand of hostile indignation on the American system of healthcare. His film is called Sicko and he has made more than a few this side of the pond feel a little sicko at his thesis. He contends that the European system of publicly-funded heathcare is so rosy and so superior no-one but a fool could stop himself from copying it. He may be right, but he also may be being economical with the truth.

Writing in the Sunday Times, columnist Minette Marrin is scathing about Moore's methods in painting such a gloriously white picture of the N.H.S. She rightly points out that there are big problems in the National Health and the tons of money thrown at it by Messrs Blair and Brown have hardly produced a system worthy of unreserved envy.

She's missed the point.

Michael Moore is not producing a critique of the NHS, he's proposing improvements in the American healthcare system. He is wondering why some system of publicly financed healthcare would not better than the shambolic, wasteful and expensive system Americans are saddled with at present. This is the criterion upon which his work should be judged – not whether the NHS is all-delightful, all-delicious, all-conquering and all-munificent. Obviously it is not. Equally it is manifestly better than what's on offer in most other countries.

It's not surprising that American politicians are not queueing up to adopt an NHS-type solution to America's healthcare problems. Assuming they speak to their UK counter-parts they must know that the real down-side to the NHS runs deeper than concerns about day-to-day running difficulties (GP's inflated salaries, wards infected with C. dificile and MRSA, nurses leaving faster than they can be trained, crazy bureaucratic decisions that compromise patient care – to mention just a few). No. The real problem with the NHS is that politicians are seen to be responsible for the healthcare of the nation.

Any American politician wanting to commit suicide, please form an orderly queue.

For; if the USA were to adopt any version of a national health service, the blame for every mistake, every short-coming, every poor clinical judgement would move miraculously from the doctors to the politicians. That's the NHS.

Michael Moore's particular talent is unashamedly finding those parts of American society that need improvement and ruthlessly exposing them. He's probably not the person to put in charge of fixing anything. He's not a very good analyst. He sometimes pretends to have all the answers when he doesn't.

That doesn't mean his ideas are dishonest or naïve. It just means that he is making documentaries and not policy.

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