We all need to fight if we are to avoid seeing the complete destruction of our NHS by next April. Here I will explain this gravest of threats that our NHS now faces. And why, we need your help if we are to stand a chance of protecting local services.
Ever since its creation in 1948 successive Governments have all undermined the basic principles on which the NHS was founded. Those principles were put in place to give us the most efficient use of available funding and fairest possible system. But profit for anyone was not in the equation and that is why our politicians have undermined it. A quick look at the number of MPs who have financial investment in private healthcare will explain why they wanted to undermine it. As will a quick look at the number of MPs who walk out of Westminster and into senior positions in private health corporations.
The state of our NHS today
So what about our population? How are the services that we access performing now after 70 years of politicians undermining the NHS? Since 2012 we have seen massive changes to our healthcare system. The private sector is responsible for delivering an increasing number of NHS services. Government has inflicted major cuts to funding affecting hospital services, GP surgeries, NHS dentistry, psychiatry, midwifery and staffing across the board. At the same time they have allowed vast amounts of public money to haemorrhage away and into the private sector.
By starving the NHS of resources our Government left it unable to cope when the pandemic hit. This was despite the fact they were well aware that a killer virus pandemic was a likely threat to the UK. This is why Britain has one of the highest death rate from Covid 19 in the world. They stood on their doorsteps along with the rest of us applauding the heroic efforts of NHS staff but then offered them another below inflation pay increase. Now our NHS staff are exhausted, demoralised and feel so undervalued they are discussing industrial action.
What do you want to do?
We can sit and wait for some amazing politician or political party to step in and repair our battered healthcare system. Or we can do like many others and buy private health insurance and resign Britain to a future without its NHS. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend its not happening. Or we can grab the bull by its horns, get ourselves informed, share information and join the army of campaigners fighting to get OUR NHS back. Read on if you prefer that option.
The Health and Care Bill 2021
The Health and Care Bill of 2021 is an enormous challenge for us all. It is a far more insidious method of destroying our NHS entirely than simply announcing the abolition of the service, or indeed its sale to private healthcare. Our Tory controlled media is doing its usual trick of going silent on healthcare policy. But we must all remember how they did this over the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. Too many people failed to recognise the harm this Act could inflict on our NHS and by the time we did realise it was too late. We must not make the same mistake again. Please, do arm yourself with the facts and share your knowledge.
Our Government is planning another top-down reorganisation of the NHS with the Health and Care Bill 2021. Many people are describing this as the final nail in the coffin of our NHS. Here is what you need to know.
Loss of local accountability
The Bill aims to divide up our healthcare system into 42 areas, called Integrated Care Areas. Decisions on local services will be decided by Integrated Care Boards (ICB). Each ICB will serve a huge population with local accountability becoming a thing of the past. Clinical Commissioning Grops are to be abolished. In time, it seems likely that these ICBs will be run by large health insurance corporations.
Private healthcare corporations with more say over services than our elected officials
Local authorities are to be given one seat on an ICB but private corporations such as Centene and Virgin are also entitled to a seat. These Boards will not be required to meet in public or allow people to watch meetings online. The GP representation on a Board could be a GP working for a firm like Centene. Centene is a US health insurance corporation that has taken over 49 surgeries in London.
Nobody responsible for providing hospital care just a health secretary with the power to destroy local services
There will be no statutory body in the NHS with a responsibility to provide secondary care for the population. The Secretary of State will have greater control and can impose spending limits on hospital trusts and foundation trusts. He could potentially block local plans and order a downsizing or even closure of hospitals.
In total the Secretary of State will get 138 additional powers including the power to rewrite the law using secondary legislation.
An end to competitive tendering – a bitter pill as opposed to a sweetener
Some have rejoiced over the fact the Bill intends to repeal the requirement for Clinical Commissioning Groups to put services out to tender. But there will be plenty of scope for privatisation without that. For this Bill does not include any regulations on how commissioners or government can award contracts in the future. We are likely to see the scandalous cronyism we saw in the pandemic, with Government handing out major contracts to their mates, continue.
Professional regulations of health and care staff destroyed
The health secretary will also have the power to abolish any regulatory body of the health and care professions. And, even remove a profession from regulations.
Endless bureacracy forced on a service that can barely breathe
These changes to our NHS will require many years of reorganisations, job losses and restructuring. Many fear that at this time, while our NHS is struggling to catch up on a backlog of elective procedures that has built up over the pandemic, this is more than it can handle.
Why we should care passionately about stopping this Bill
We must stop seeing the imposition of charges for NHS services as being our only concern. A lack of access to healthcare or access to healthcare that is substandard could be equally disastrous. Every pound invested in improving the public health will return a £2-4 increase in public wealth. Cuts to the funding of our healthcare system could have a serious knock on effect to our economy.
We should be equally concerned by the staffing issues as our NHS now has a workforce close to breaking point. Government must begin to invest our money into the NHS workforce. It is time to demand an end to Government handing out large amounts of our money to dodgy firms who do substandard work.
There is nothing in this Bill that suggests it could make any improvement at all to our NHS. Instead it threatens us with a centrally controlled system that refuses to listen to local voices. It threatens us with continued austerity and a cranking up of privatisation fuelled by corruption and cronyism. This Bill will do nothing to alleviate the staffing crisis or provide what staff we do have with better work conditions and pay. Instead. by deregulating the health and care professions it will allow people with far less qualifications to be delivering care.
Our Councillors are saying nothing about the attack to local democracy
The Bill will take away the ability of our local authorities to influence the services available. We shared an open letter to East Sussex County Councillors calling on them to speak out against this attack on local democracy. You can add your name to this letter by typing it into the comment section below this blog post.
All MPs in East Sussex voted in favour of this Bill at the second reading
Unless we fight this Bill we may lose our NHS, our health, our communities, and future prosperity. The Bill has had its second reading in the Commons and is now at the Committee stage. We need to fight it at every level. We need to mobilise a mass public outcry and shame every MP who supported it at the second reading into voting against at the third reading. This includes every MP in East Sussex as they all voted in support of this Bill at the second reading. We also need to look at every amendment that comes forward at the committee stage and back any that will offer the NHS some protection.
There is every reason to believe we stand a chance of success. As we recently reported this Bill does include a relaxation of rules that govern the sharing of our medical records. But campaigners have now succeeded in getting an indefinite suspension over the plan to get GPs to transfer our medical records to a data store. Corporations such as Google, Amazon and Palantir have already paid to have access to this data store. I know I don’t want them getting access to my health records. Other campaigners have been fighting against the US Corporation Centene taking over local services and some of them have been successful
Our future if this Bill becomes law
Unless we fight come next April our country will see our NHS turned into 42 separate healthcare systems. Large health insurance firms will in time be running each of these systems. We will find we have a healthcare system that is a replica of the US system. Then we too will have one of the highest rates of bankruptcy due to healthcare costs in the world. People who need services unpopular with the private sector, such as Maternity or A&E, will end up with a second rate service.
I know I’ve got my gloves on ready for a fight but will you join me?