Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Future for Health in Sidmouth: "Keep Our NHS Public" campaign.

Gordon Read addressed the Futures Forum meeting on health:

Gordon Read [Member of Exeter Locality PPG, attending NEW Devon CCG meetings; Member of the ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ campaign] felt that the PPG, as conduit between doctors and patients, were natural allies in preserving the NHS; and that the CCG was doing an excellent job in trying to embed patients’ voices within the NHS, together with the welcome appointment of Lay Members.

Futures Forum: The Future for Health in Sidmouth: report

He spoke on behalf of the campaign group "Keep Our NHS Public" which is challenging changes in the health service: 

Keep our NHS public!

The NHS stands at a crossroads. For nearly 60 years Britain has enjoyed a National Health Service that strives to be comprehensive, accessible and high value for money. Now, government reforms threaten both the ethos of the NHS, and the planned and equitable way in which it delivers care to patients.

At the heart of the changes is the creation of a market that welcomes profit-driven international corporations who answer to shareholders, not patients. This market will compel hospitals and health professionals, who have traditionally cooperated to deliver healthcare, to compete with each other and with the private sector. Far from supporting the NHS, the private sector is in competition with it, and is already draining away resources and staff.

If these reforms continue the nature of the health system will change radically:

  • Income and profits will increasingly come before patient needs and clinical considerations.
  • Greater inequalities in healthcare will appear, as profitable services and patients attract money at the expense of unprofitable ones.
  • Forced market competition among NHS hospitals and primary care will break up the NHS as a network of collaborating bodies that share resources and information. Our integrated NHS GP service will be lost. There will be winners and losers, with some units and even entire hospitals having to close. We are already seeing job losses and bed closures in NHS hospitals.
  • Even more of the new money allocated to health will be diverted to shareholders and company profits, and wasted on the huge administrative costs associated with establishing and running a market.
There is no evidence that these reforms will improve the health service. And in spite of increased spending on healthcare, and government commitment to "patient choice", the end result of these reforms will undermine the choice that is most important to patients - access to comprehensive, trustworthy, and local health services.

The situation is grave. The value of the NHS is immense and cannot be mirrored by the private sector. It must be kept in public hands, serving the interests of all patients and the broader public, not the private healthcare industry.

We therefore call on organisations, healthcare workers, patients and the public to campaign to protect the NHS from further privatisation and fragmentation, and to keep our NHS public. 

Keep Our NHS Public

A significant book and, in shorter form, lecture were referred to during the Futures Forum meeting:

The Plot Against the NHS: by Colin Leys and Stewart Player, Merlin Press

This brief exposition of the situation facing the NHS is both clear and frightening. The first five chapters describe the changes made by new labour during its period of office including the hugely expensive Private Finance Initiative projects, Independent Sector Treatment Centres, Payment by Results and the creation of Foundation Trusts.  This marketisation laid the ground for the Coalition’s Bill to jump start their determination to fully dismantle and privatise the health service and leave the NHS as a ‘kitemark’ for those organisations commissioning and providing the service.

These so-called reforms created a finance led system rather than one designed to meet health needs.  The authors, Colin Leys and Stewart Player, show clearly with full references that it is private companies, required by law to meet shareholder returns, who benefit to the disadvantage of patients.  Chapter 7 describes in detail the health policy lobbyists who have been such a strong influence on government, indeed to the point of showing how ministers, labour and conservative, have strong financial links to private companies driving this agenda.  In the UK there is no register of lobbyists and therefore no public control.

In dealing with how the market will operate the authors show in great detail the range of companies involved and the influence of the US system of healthcare.  But they also expose the real danger of competition, in reality  based on price rather than quality of care.  The costs of the market, borne by the taxpayer, are shown: huge transaction costs (up from 5% administrative costs in the ‘70s to 14% by 2003 and rising) plus shareholder returns and executive salaries.  Removing the market (as in Wales and Scotland) would save £10 billion a year, resolving the problem of saving £20 bn over the next 3 to 4 years.

This well researched book should be read by all those involved in and concerned about our NHS.  It is a wake-up call.  Whilst the NHS has never had a higher approval rate by the population, provides excellent value for money in comparison with most other countries and must be the highest on equity of provision, the proposed changes, even after the coalition’s marginal clime down, leave it seriously at risk.  Of course, like any large and complex organisation, it needs improvement but this should be to the benefit of all.

John Lipetz

June 2011

Healthmatters The Plot Against the NHS by Colin Leys and Stewart Player, Merlin Press
The Plot Against the NHS | openDemocracy

See also: Futures Forum: How will the proposed changes to the NHS affect healthcare in Sidmouth?

No comments: