In a previous article we outlined the absolute failure of Jeremy Hunt’s privatisation posterchild, Hitchingbrooke hospital, that ended as a complete disaster for patient safety and public finances. With his hopes for rapid NHS privatisation dashed, Jeremy Hunt has been enforcing the sell-off of lucrative NHS services by stealth.
In his 2005 book, ‘Direct Democracy’, Jeremy Hunt outlined his thoughts on the NHS:
‘Instead of tinkering with a fundamentally broken machine, it [The Conservatives] should offer to update the model, setting out, in warm and optimistic tones, its vision of a healthier Britain.’ (Page 80)
To achieve his goals Hunt has closely followed a golden formula with three key steps:
- Run the service into the ground.
- Make the public question their belief in a system, that appears to be failing.
- Privatise stretched services to ‘improve efficiency’ and safety
But in recent years the Department of Health has been busy quietly selling off ‘lucrative’ aspects of the NHS, and outsourcing services at a net loss to the public purse.
Hospitals around the UK are struggling to provide the same level of service, under the Conservative government, due to political interference.
At the heart of the political inference is the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, a complete top-down reorganisation of the NHS, that expanded the number of decision making bodies from 152 to 211, new ‘Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (CCGs). Stretched GPs have had unworkable levels of bureaucracy laid at their doorstep, significantly impacting their ability to carry out day-to-day duties, without burning out and quitting the profession. In 2016, hundreds of GPs quit in protest to the governments changes. This year, record numbers of GP practices are closing, with two in five GPs planning to quit over the unbearable workload, leaving 265,000 patients to find new doctors.
The Conservatives claim the CCGs were to give GPs and local services more power to act on behalf of their patients, however this is a cynical ploy, the primary purpose of creating the CCGs was to ‘Free up providers to innovate”. In non-political speak that equates to assigning new contracts to private providers, and escalating the role of the market within the NHS. Under the new rules introduced in 2012, the GPs now responsible for purchasing contracts are legally obliged to “treat providers equally and in a non-discriminatory way”, leading to private providers undercutting the NHS in proposed cost, but also cutting corners to claw in a maximal profit from patients.
Jeremy Hunt claims increased ‘consumer choice’ will drive cost-efficiency within the NHS. The NHS pre-reforms ranked the second most cost effective, in an international study by the Common Wealth Fund, at $3,405/person. Last year the NHS was still regarded as a highly cost-effective service, by a newer Common Wealth Fund study, despite increased marketisation, costing $4,094/person. But it is important to highlight that these studies don’t consider; the £22bn in cuts the NHS is undergoing by 2020, forcing delays to surgeries, and reducing access to medical care. Nor does the study highlight the rapidly mounting debt, pre-2013 Conservative reforms, NHS trusts ran a budget surplus across the entire UK, today they have stacked up a record £2.45bn deficit. A deficit stacked up by an increased reliance on agencies to fill in ward rotas, clean hospitals, and hire out ambulances & equipment, all from private providers. The problem is only set to get worse, as NHS-land is being sold-off and rented back at extortionate long-term costs to the budget deficit. View the explainer below:
Jeremy Hunt must be stopped. His determination to bleed the NHS dry of funding, to line the pockets of private corporations, is a real threat to a continuing free at the point of use public service. Next election we must campaign hard for the NHS, to inform the public of what goes on behind closed doors.
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