I write with regard to the proposed reforms to the NHS. I understand that the new bill on health and social care is to be debated in parliament on Monday 31st January, and as a concerned constituent I hope you will take note that I, and I feel sure many others, are deeply concerned about the changes which are already going forward. I see Mr Lansley’s proposed ‘reforms’ as nothing less than privatisation by stealth. I read with deep concern Polly Toynbee’s article in the Guardian (18 January, Tory Free Market Hurricane will blow our NHS apart. ) in which she points out much of the following:
The proposal that GPs will take ownership of the £80Billion budget and ‘buy in’ services from “any willing provider” means in reality that GPs will face EU Competition Law. A GP could, for example, refer a patient to a local hospital with which s/he has had a long-standing trusted relationship, only to find that this referral could be ‘outbid’ by a private company, and the latter would win . In effect neither GP nor patient will control who is treated where - the law will decide.
Of course this might be perfectly reasonable, if the private provider could be trusted to give care to the same standard that we have come to expect from the NHS but this will not be the case. We are already aware of many botched operations which have gone ahead in ISTCs by doctors who are not obliged to perform by NHS standards. They are not members of the Royal College of Surgeons and not vetted for jobs. They are frequently foreign with a poor grasp of the English language. Under the previous Labour administration competition was introduced based on quality not financial cost and IPSO Mori reports (as reported in the Observer newspaper 30 January) that satisfaction with the NHS went up from 55 -71% under that administration, the highest percentage rise recorded by Mori.
If the proposed reforms go ahead private providers will have the potential to undercut all NHS surgery. Thus lack of funding will leave many hospitals in a very fragile and vulnerable position. NHS Hospitals could be bankrupted but also left with complex or emergency operations. If local NHS Hospitals go broke or can no longer offer unprofitable (but of course effective for the patient) services, what choice will be left to patients? They will either have to travel vast distances or be left in the hands of inexperienced doctors who neither comply with NHS standards or are accountable. Price competition ordained by the EU will decide which services survive and which die. It will also decide which patients live or die.
This process was begun under the last Tory administration in the mid 1990s and Lansley is ignoring all the evidence on the impact of price competition in the hospital sector and is endangering lives. But it seems that he is unconcerned. As long as the lobbyists for the businesses, which are angling to have a slice of the Health-care pie, continue to have the same cosy relationship which they already have with ministers and MPs in Westminster, the ordinary public stand little chance of getting a word in edgeways but, rest assured, we do not want to find ourselves in a situation where the private provider is allowed to consign us to a painful life following from a poorly performed operation, or indeed worse.
Of course surgery is only one aspect of the proposed reforms. Pharmaceuticals and other, clinical and medical services will all be up for grabs.
We also understand that many GPs are not keen on these reforms and Sarah Wollaston, a Tory MP who is also a GP, has publicly aired her misgivings, (as has former shadow health minister Stephen Dorrell). Other GPs are not against the reforms, indeed some look forward to running profitable companies, but this is not what healthcare should be about. David Cameron promised before the election that he would not tinker with the NHS – Too right – this isn’t tinkering – it’s major surgery – excuse the pun! Among the silken words he used to lull us into a false sense of security, he said ”spending on public services will actually be at the same level of GDP as it was in 2006 – 41% but in fact GDP has fallen by 6% since then. So in reality there will be a massive cut. This will lead to lengthening waiting lists, cancelled operations and hospital closures.
One comment on the Guardian blog on Polly Toynbee’s article points out that had Cameron been honest about his intentions for the NHS in his election manifesto he would most definitely have lost the election.
Please support your constituents and fight these reforms. I look forward to hearing your own views on this matter.
Thanks if you decide to do it.