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Why stop at private GPs? Poles should run our schools and trains too

Cristina Odone - Daily Telegraph - Tue, Jun 11th 2013

Poles should run everything here

The latest issue of The Economist included a small story in its Britain section about My Medik, a low-cost, private GP clinic run by Poles. The clinic opened four years ago and has 30,000 patients on its rolls. Polish immigrants were fed up with NHS GPs who only gave them brief consultations and seldom worked 24/7.  "The clinics charge fixed fees, which are published on their websites, for consultations and treatments," The Economist found. "This means that they rely on regular customers for revenue, and need to treat them well if they are to retain them."

It sounded like everyone's dream: a cheap but effective health service. No wonder the story has been picked up by the tabloids: I'd learn Polish if I had to – though thankfully the GPs speak perfect English, as an increasing number of their patients are natives.

But why stop at GPs? Poles, with their hard-working ethos and (having experienced Communist queues and bureaucracy) lack of patience with inefficiency, should run schools and trains too.

Look at Pisa results – the international league table which ranks schools around the world – and you'll see that Poland scores higher than Britain on every subject. In fact, Polish children in our schools bring standards up (especially in mathematics). Polish education has succeeded in widening access as well as improving results – and all at a fraction of the education budget of Western countries. The secret is greater local autonomy – local government has taken the reins from central government. It makes the education system far more sensitive to pressure from its users: parents and teachers know who is responsible for failing schools as well as successful ones.

Once we've seen how brilliantly Poles handle GP clinics and schools, why not hand over our railways to them too? Britain's trains are expensive, with tickets costing ten times what they do in the rest of Europe. One in eight trains don't run on time.

But Poland, which has invested €4 billion in modernising its railway transport, sees the link between punctual, cheap trains and an improving economy: they are ready to prune their railways of up to 9000km unused lines in order to keep the remaining system more efficient.

Let the Poles run things here. They might do a better job of it.

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