NHS Monitor proposes credit ratings agencies should vet hospitals

This extraordinary story in the Guardian yesterday answered three questions that have been puzzling me.

It concerns a discussion paper published by the new health watch-dog, Monitor, that clinical assessment of NHS providers should be replaced with a financial assessment by credit ratings agencies such as Standard & Poor’s. The Guardian covers the story in greater depth on its inside pages.

The credit rating agencies, of course, are the same agencies that said bundled sub-prime mortgages — so called CDOs — were triple-A securities. Yes, CDOs — the very same toxic debt that almost toppled the global banking system and that the credit ratings agencies demanded extra for assessing because of their complexity, as John Lanchester’s book, Whoops!, revealed.

So, what three questions did this answer? Well, I have been wondering whether Monitor can be said to be politically independent. The answer to that question now seems clear.

I have been trying to keep up with information on NHS ‘reforms’ and decide for myself whether they are, as critics including the RCN, the RCM and the BMA increasingly fear, almost entirely market-driven. A financial rather than a clinical or care quality assessment? That would seem to answer that question too.

And I have always wondered whether turkeys ever do vote for Christmas. Well, the turkeys at Monitor have.

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