Friday, 27 April 2012

No way to run a health service?

WELL it seems that all is not well at the good ship that is the health service! First this week came the (not so breaking) news that waiting times in A&E departments were now measured in days rather than minutes – well it feels that way!

Then came the claim that if it wasn’t for us all buying lottery tickets then social care would grind to a halt.

While the mandarins and managers wander the carpeted corridors of Stormont’s Castle Buildings and pace the board rooms of the the health and social care board and various trusts, it seems that the voluntary and community sector has been patching up the system.

The Big Lottery Fund has so far contributed £21m to 200 projects - which any way you care to slice it, is a huge slice of scratch card, EuroMillions and Lottery tickets.

Whilst ideologically the DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots may be against gambling (except when gambling on the effect of closing A&E departments), it seems that he may be quite prepared to profit in his health and social services dealings from the act of gambling…

One has to wonder at the mathematics of this whole thing (and don’t worry there are no differential equations!). You (or your representative) buy a ticket from a licensed vendor of gambling products associated with the lottery. You buy £1 to gamble on a scratch card or a lotto ticket. The lucky winners get a cool 50% slice of your £1 with 5-6% going to the vendor. (Supporting small businesses if you buy from your corner shop…) A further slice (4%) goes to the company that won the tender to run the lottery. We’re not up to speed on the whole payments and tax of it all but we think HMRC gets a 12% cut of your £1 (and a cut from the small business too). That leaves a percentage (say 30% for the sake of argument) that goes to ‘good causes’.

Some of those good causes that benefit provide services in Northern Ireland. Some of those services are in social services. One commentator from the sector worried that more and more the community and voluntary sector were asked to plug the gaps where the state should be providing the service.

So when you take your lottery gamble you can do so in all reassurance that you’re helping to not only provide a service but make sure that Minister Poots is closely aligned to gambling.