Whatever happens in the election the one thing that I am sure of is that whoever ends up in power will want to change things. Not necessarily because they think that things need changing but because if they don’t change things then, presumably, they believe that no-one will think they have done anything at all.
Most of our major public services and nearly all of our private businesses run better if the government doesn’t start to alter them to suit their particular ideology every time there is a change of party, or parties, in charge. I’ve been running a business for forty years, give or take a few months, and if I had changed the whole way I organise things every five years then I very much doubt if I would have had a business to hand on to my successor last summer. Why should the country be any different?
I realised long ago that, just when I had things running the way I wanted, along would come a change of government that would alter the underlying connection between my business and the Health Service. At first we had NHS sight tests for everyone and NHS glasses from a very limited range for those that wanted them. Then the range of frames altered. Then they altered who could have them.
Mrs Thatcher, at the third attempt, removed the eligibility to NHS sight tests from most adult people. At the same time she tried to influence Opticians to charge very little for private exams, and told everyone to shop around for their glasses. Private exam fees were just beginning to reach an economic level when Gordon Brown restored free sight tests to the over sixties, announcing it six months in advance and without increasing the NHS fee. It immediately devalued the service and caused price increases elsewhere in many cases.
So my message to whoever ends up in power in the months to come is simply this. Don’t rush in and change things, talk to the people and the business owners doing the work first and take their advice. Take time to contemplate whether you are reinventing the wheel.
Oh and don’t forget that charities like Vision Aid Overseas still need your old glasses – you can drop them in our box next time you are passing.