Thursday, 12 November 2009

Means testing is mean:

I went to see the dentist for his six monthly poke about in my mouth last week.
It was unsettling this time for a couple of reasons, primarily because of the untimely death of my dentist of eight years earlier this summer. John Bue was a lovely man, who always seemed pleased to see me and despite his incredibly busy schedule always found time for a chat; he was a Liverpool and I a Newcastle fan, as such we would bemoan the failings of our respective teams at length. For someone I barely knew, his passing away deeply saddened me and he shall be greatly missed.

The other unsettling thing was a little more unexpected, for you see I am now a full time student, so I was looking forward to receiving my dental care for free! It isn't a case of free loading; I have a very tight budget, and £20 is a lot of money to me now. I booked my next appointment and when the receptionist asked for payment, I meekly informed her that I was a student and didn't have to pay. Somewhat to my surprise, she told me I had to fill out an application form, and if successful, I would be able to get a refund; no problem I thought!

When I got home and pulled the strangely weighty tome from its brown envelope. I thought I had picked the wrong form up, but no, you have to fill out a twenty page booklet asking a stream of hugely irrelevant and intrusive questions about every aspect of your financial income and personal details. One question was about how many breakfasts you receive as part of any rent! If you have a partner you must also inform the NHS police of their details too.

Fair enough, I hear you say. It probably stops benefit fraud, you've nothing to hide. Whats the problem?

Well, apart from being a irksome waste of my time, students have to provide term dates, even though it acknowledges on the form universities operate on a semester basis, requiring a pointless trip to admin to generate some official meaningless dates. Apart from free dental care being my right when Labour created the NHS. Apart from the inevitable tower of waste and bureaucracy that administering this over the top new system must cost, will surely out weigh any counter fraud savings.

It sums the current government up, a minority of people were wrongly claiming for free dental care and prescriptions. So what do you do to solve this problem? Most people would suggest maybe punishment of those who steal health care, not New Labour. Their solution is the creation of an expensive bureaucracy, an intrusive waste of time for those who have an entitlement to free care, and yet another means test. It seems that Labour have forgotten the principles of the NHS which it founded sixty-five years ago, and it could be argued they have done very little of merit since.

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