The Systematic Dismantling of the NHS

The Systematic Dismantling of the NHS

By Prue Plumridge

This is the letter I wrote which was printed in the Maldon and Burnham last week. This is the letter in full as the M&B did not print it all.

‘Dear Sirs

On the 5th July it was 65 years since the birth of the National Health Service, without question one of Britain’s greatest achievements, and the envy of many countries around the world. However, as a result of the Health and Social Care Act which came into force on 1st April 2013 we are now seeing the gradual and systematic dismantling of the NHS which has been, until now, a part of a holistic system that plans and delivers care within the state system.

The government deny that it is privatisation by the back door but the evidence is becoming clearer that this is the ultimate intention. Already the planned £20 billion of cuts (or efficiency savings as they are referred to) are beginning to affect the levels of patient care throughout the NHS including in geriatrics, midwifery and mental health. Furthermore the government clawed back £500 million of a budget underspend for 2012/13 which could have been rolled over. To make matters even more concerning some government ministers are even discussing the possibility that ring fencing which currently protects the NHS budget from further cuts should be abandoned.

This is all having an increasingly severe effect on the service. Seven thousand nurses have already been laid off and this figure is expected to rise. Such reductions are already increasing the pressure on those that remain and can only lead, ultimately, to a reduction in the levels of care. There are closure plans for hospitals, A&E’s, maternity units and mental healthcare centres across England and Wales and already there are 18,000 fewer hospital beds. Readers will, I am sure, also be aware from media coverage that A&E’s country-wide are in crisis, waiting times have increased and doctors are warning that they will no longer be able to care for patients adequately. At the beginning of June figures showed that more planned operations were cancelled in the first few months of this year than for any similar period in almost a decade and senior surgeons are warning that the crisis in accident and emergency is cascading through the NHS. Recent figures show too that the number of ambulances who were turned away from A&E has increased by 24% whilst the roll out of the NHS 111 service, which replaces NHS Direct, has been chaotic and fragmented leaving it currently unfit for purpose.

Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act requires contracts to be put out to tender to the private sector. Already multi-million pound contracts have been awarded to companies like Virgin and Serco which to date equal around £7 billion. It is important to be aware that if public providers go out of business, as they are passed over for contracts or are shut down because a private provider has undercut them, the patient may be stuck with a worse service as the public providers will no longer exist and the private provider will be free to raise its prices later. Hinchingbrooke hospital has already been privatised and it is very likely that we will see many more such privatisations in years to come. I am sure, too, that it will not have escaped readers’ notice that there has been increased advertising for private health insurance on TV, Radio and via unsolicited emails and post. This must tell us something.

What is equally shameful is the attempt by government to blame all the problems of the NHS on everyone but themselves. Older people or nurses and doctors, who we are told lack compassion, have all come into the firing line in a government attempt to deflect attention from the consequences of its reforms. It is not the fault of the elderly or indeed the dedicated, compassionate and hard working health professionals who are under increasing pressure as these cuts start to bite.

We should not forget either that the Act came into law when many MPs, Lords and Baronesses who have, or have had financial interests in private health care voted for it and a further incentive may have been the donations the Conservative party received from companies hoping to cash in on the carve up of the NHS. Surely a conflict of interest?

Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners said in a recent televised discussion that she believed that we are seeing privatisation by the back door. She said “If you take privatisation as moving resources – state resources (i.e. tax payers’ money) into the profit or not for profit sector that is privatisation. It’s moving resources that currently belong to the state sector into the ‘for profit’ sector and [that] profit will not go back into the state it will go to shareholders.”

I would like to leave readers with a final thought by the Fleet Street Fox who wrote: ‘Despite talk of efficiency and value for money and market forces – all of which are a great idea – there’s never been, in the history of man, a privatisation which helped the end user at all. If you take a thing provided by the state, and give it to a private firm which needs to turn a profit, either the service has to be cut or the prices have to rise. It’s maths so simple even Jeremy Hunt could do it.’

13 thoughts on “The Systematic Dismantling of the NHS

  1. Wonderful but when are we going to take to the streets to Save the NHS. Letters and articles are all very well but with the morons like Hunt only show of force will make a difference.

    • We have been campaigning for two years through an organisation we set up through 38degrees. The reason people don’t know what is happening is because there has been, at least until recently, a news blackout by the BBC and other media. Raising awareness is a key element in any campaign. This is why I write letters to the newspapers. This is why we have been involved in local demonstrations and campaigned on the high street. Indeed 30, 0000 people did get out on the street recently to protest against the closure of Stafford Hospital, as did many thousands who similarly protested against the closure of Lewisham A&E. Getting involved in organisations such as Healthwatch, locality fora, joining your surgery’s Patient Participation Group and attending CCG board meetings is also a good way to have your say and keep abreast of what is happening. There are many people in this country who care and are active but what is difficult is the general apathy of the population combined with the continual attacks by some newsapers and , worse still, the government which brings the NHS into disrepute by suggesting that it is broken thus justifying its sale to the private sector.
      In my opinion it is vital that we work together and joining the People’s Assembly and the local groups that are being set up is a first step towards a real and effective opposition to what the government is doing. It is vital to engage people in their future and the future of generations to come. Yes let’s ‘get out on the streets’ but we need to organise effectively to do it.

  2. Why the hell are we not out on the streets stopping this lunacy? In any civilised country the population would be up in arms over this terrible act of vandalism. But why do we British just accept it like fools?

      • But how do we get the vast majority of the lethargic British public out on the streets to protest? They will complain sure enough when it has gone.

    • After three years, the Unions have finally pulled their finger out and are helping organise a national demo to save the NHS in Manchester on 29 September, which it is important to spread and take part in: http://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigning/events/spareadaytosaveournhs/

      Misleadingly it is aimed at the Tory conference, as if destroying the NHS was not a long-term project built by all 3 parties in government since Thatcher. But it is the closest thing to a national demo those criminals have bothered to organise, now that the privatisation process is “80%” underway, so worth going to.

  3. If we had a Republic with a written constitution it would prevent these absurd privatisations which can only lead to less help getting to those who need it most. I consider the NHS to be my birthright as a result of the sacrifices both my grand fathers made serving in the Second World War and the promises made to them, their families and generations to come. Also the NI and tax I have paid into the state. The NHS belongs to the people and no party has the right to flog it off to the highest bidder, probably an overseas investment corporation. As you mentioned why dismantle something that is the envy of the modern WORLD!

    Why? To line their own pockets. There should be criminal investigations in the dealings of MPs, Peers, lobbyists and private healthcare or those with no healthcare experience but want their nose in the trough. Our brightest and best in a&e and intensive care are leaving in droves as they are sick of corporate branding and public image taking precedent over clinical healthcare. I am sick of flog it and scarper mentality of British politics and money over morals and people.

  4. Pingback: “Mourning for the NHS and “The Sell Off”movie. | Think Left

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