Labour's rather bizarre obsession with “saving” NHS direct is a very timely reminder of their completely arse over tit approach to public services.
Let's not lose sight of one basic fact here. NHS Direct is not a front line service. It is a helpdesk. Helpdesks exist to do one thing, to take cost out of an organisation. At the most basic level, they are there are a buffer between the customer and the service delivery function and that is true of all organisations from British Gas to QVC and especially the NHS.
Think of it this way. The basic need for a person with an illness is to contact their own doctor. This is simply not practical unless access is controlled in some way. It is completely unrealistic for a GP to be contactable at all hours of the day and night direct by a patient and the cost of providing 24 hour on demand GP availability just in case of a call is prohibitive, The more you can intercept and deal with requests for access by utilising resources using decreasing levels of cost, the more efficient the service. It's called demand management. NHS Direct was a model that attempted to reduce costs by deploying fully qualified nurses as call centre staff to serve as medical dictionaries or automated reminders to call their doctor's surgery to book an appointment. This is not a a sensible use of anyone’s money... except in the crazy world of Labour-Leadership-Election-onomics.
The fact that Labour place it up there with heart operations and cancer treatment as worthy of gnashing and grinding of teeth reveals yet another great vacuous hole in their reasoning and exposes them as a party bereft of any sort of raison d'être. They only have one policy now and that is to be against everything that anyone else is for and this extends to things that they previously supported.
I wish them well in their pit of despair. Vacillating between sheer hatred of Lib Dems then sucking up as saviours of the Labour way shows a deeply flawed understanding of Liberal Democracy. We do not accept Labour as having any sort of moral compass that we should follow and the Iraq war destroyed even that belief within their own party. The people who really should be considering their positions are Labour Party members who see nothing wrong with treating their core support like scum, rewarded the rich with tax breaks, shafted the nation to keep their chums the bankers sweet and are as morally bankrupt as their party is financially bankrupt. After 13 years of government a party that left the poor worse off than when they came to power can really does consist of what they themsleves once would call class traitors, all backed by trade union leaders with six figure salaries.
As a Lib Dem, believing in a strong NHS and defending its services free at the point of use does not mean continuing with Labour's predeliction to p!ss public money up the wall.