December 6th 2011, 10:08
The West is going through financial turmoil. Its governments are bankrupt, and are being forced to cut back on public expenditure. For David Cameron's UK government, the National Health Service (NHS) presents a special challenge: not only is it the nation's premier cash drain, costing the taxpayer lb100bn a year, it is also its most sacred, and appears to be untouchable.
Prime Minister Cameron admitted as much when he pronounced he would ring-fence the NHS from the swingeing cuts being administered to all other government departments. Despite these public assurances, in 2009 he commissioned the management consultants McKinsey to look for cost savings. They identified up to lb20bn of cuts that could be achieved over a five-year period by eliminating inefficiencies and treatments that are 'relatively ineffective'.