Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

the NHS: The Tories plan to abolish the National Health Service as we know it

In A.Graham on October 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Don’t let the free market take over the NHS!

When the National Health Service came into being on July 5, 1948, it was the flagship of the Labour government’s plan to provide universal welfare services for those in need, “from the cradle to the grave”.

True, it was opposed by some doctors, who saw it as threatening their status, but they were accommodated into the system. For ordinary people, it was overwhelmingly popular. And remains so today .

But since the days of Margaret Thatcher we have had to fight to keep the basic principles of the Service alive. Even under the Blair Government these principles were threatened.

Few folk in the Forest will forget the fight to save the Dean’s two community hospitals from closure, in the summer of 2006. The level of protest was overwhelming. We marched, we lobbied – and eventually the then Health Minister, Patricia Hewitt, was forced to back down (Patricia Hewitt, incidentally, is now working as an adviser for the private equity company Cinven which recently bought out all of BUPA’s private hospitals).

BIGGER THREAT: Now the NHS as a whole faces an even bigger threat. Whilst previous governments have been content to chip away at its foundations, the Cameron regime plans to transform the entire structure – creating a framework of health care that will bear no resemblance to the NHS as we know it.

The Tory white paper is based on the creation of a market in health care (not unlike the system that exists in the USA). Hospitals will become independent businesses, competing with private hospitals and clinics for NHS funding.

Those hospitals that are deemed to have “failed” will either be left to go bankrupt (and thus be closed down), or be handed over to be run by private companies.

In theory GPs will run the service. This may sound attractive to some. After all those in work providing health care surely know what’s best for patients. But most doctors simply don’t have the time, the skills, or even the inclination to cope with the mass of administration involved. It will merely take them away from the work that they are dedicated to and should be doing. And as more is spent on administration, less money will actually be available for actual medical care.

And there is always the threat that as a hospital administration tries to reduce costs they will do so denying patients certain treatments. Staffing levels may also be threatened.

GOING PRIVATE: Critics of the Tory plans for the NHS see it as part of the private health industry to get its hands on the NHS budget. Effectively, we will end up with a profit-driven health care market – rather than a service dedicated to providing care free at the point of need.

Behind the Cameron “contract for a better NHS”, is an army of private health consortia and their consultants – many of them US based. The strategy is effectively to remove all hospitals from public ownership. Whether we call the results “foundation trusts” or “social enterprises”, it’s one and the same. Meanwhile, there are plans to remove many hospitals from the NHS completely and hand them to the private sector.

Of course the Health Service consists of a lot more than its hospitals. There are clinics, doctors’ surgeries, and a host of ancillary services on which many of us rely. But hospitals are the most costly – and thus, for the private sector, the most potentially lucrative.

FIGHTBACK: Already those who’re concerned with the future of the NHS are preparing to defend it. Health care unions will no doubt be in the forefront, but it’s important that any campaign gains wide public support – on the scale that we saw in the Forest of Dean in 2006.

We can be modestly proud of the level of health care provided in the Forest. Don’t let us lose it, to the sharks who are only interested in profit and don’t give a damn about welfare.

Behind the Cameron “contract for a better NHS”, is an army of private health consortia and their consultants – many of them US based. The strategy is effectively to remove all hospitals from public ownership. Whether we call the results “foundation trusts” or “social enterprises”, it’s one and the same. Meanwhile, there are plans to remove many hospitals from the NHS completely and hand them to the private sector.

Of course the Health Service consists of a lot more than its hospitals. There are clinics, doctors’ surgeries, and a host of ancillary services on which many of us rely. But hospitals are the most costly – and thus, for the private sector, the most potentially lucrative.

FIGHTBACK: Already those who’re concerned with the future of the NHS are preparing to defend it. Health care unions will no doubt be in the forefront, but it’s important that any campaign gains wide public support – on the scale that we saw in the Forest of Dean in 2006.

We can be modestly proud of the level of health care provided in the Forest. Don’t let us lose it, to the sharks who are only interested in profit and don’t give a damn about welfare.

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