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Breaking the NHS: reckless reforms will steal the nation’s health

In this post, Richard Blogger summarises a new report on the government's heavily-criticised NHS reforms.

Breaking the NHS: Stealing England’s Health Through Reckless Reform

It is clear that the government’s NHS reforms are ideological.

Over the last 18 months, the opposition against the reforms has grown to the point that there is now opposition from everyone in healthcare: the unions, the professions, patients and academic health policy experts. The small number of supporters of government policy is dwindling fast - and even the few organisations that support the reforms are expressing concern about the mess the policy is in.

Even coalition MPs are expressing their opposition - including (according to reports) three cabinet ministers.

The government has huge resources - the Department of Health (with 40 press officers) and a compliant press to push its agenda.

This new report from SOS NHS puts the case for opposition to the bill and shows why the government’s policy will not only fail, but will be dangerously damaging to the nation’s health. The report has five parts and gives examples of problems caused by government policy even now. This is a report full of vital evidence that demolishes the government’s claim for these reforms.

Threat to patients
Patients need a fully accountable, high quality, integrated healthcare system.

SOS NHS show how the reforms will lead to a fragmented system, where accountability will be patchy and quality will suffer. Patients will be subject to longer waiting times for those treatments that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will pay for - but more significantly, CCGs will have the power to ration healthcare. We will find in future that in some areas of England, treatments that are currently available on the NHS will be denied. This will lead to a postcode lottery on a scale we have never seen before. Healthcare-access inequalities across the county will increase.

Privatisation and EU competition law
SOS NHS shows that the privatisation agenda is the ideological heart of these reforms.

The government’s policy of Any Qualified Provider is overt privatisation. The government wants patients to choose private providers so that NHS hospitals close down because of a lack of patients. The government is so obsessed with this policy that it has even produced a target telling Primary Care Trusts that they will be performance-managed on the number of patients who use private providers.

The result is clear – the central purpose of the coalition’s NHS will shift from treating patients to generating profits for private companies. Central to this shift to private provision is competition, which the government claims will lower costs. It will not. Competition will lead to costly court cases as private companies fight over their share of the corpse of the NHS. The only winners will be lawyers.

Lack of evidence
The government is already imposing these reforms - before the bill has been passed. It is doing this at breakneck speed - and with no evidence that the reforms will work. Worse: the government has made wild claims (for example heart attack survival) that have been proven completely wrong. Over the last 18 months, many authoritative reports have been published showing how efficient and effective the NHS is - and all of these have been rejected by this government. In contrast to the government who fail to list the evidence for their reforms, SOS NHS lists evidence that prove that the reforms are damaging.

The Economy and wasting funds
The NHS costs a sixth of government spending, but it is money well spent. We have modern, effective and quality care, free at the point of use. The effective care that we receive has a significant effect on the economy, because sickness has a detrimental effect on productivity. When the country is in dire economic straits (through self-imposed austerity), the health of the nation is a vital part of any eventual recovery. These reforms put the country’s health at risk. That makes it more difficult for the NHS to improve and address the healthcare challenges of the future.

Ignoring moral obligations
For 60 years, the NHS has been the bedrock of our society. It is the last of the welfare state’s safety nets. It provides treatment according to need, not wealth.

The government’s reforms, coupled with its reform of welfare, shows its obsession with a free market, US-style system, where the state feels no responsibility for citizens and shows no accountability to its voters. The NHS bill will shatter the 60-year covenant that the citizens of this country have had with the state - that we pay our taxes and the state provides high quality healthcare for all.

The government’s policy is that we should continue to pay our taxes, but the state will no longer provide the comprehensive healthcare we need. Instead, the government intends that we move towards an insurance-based system (as Nick Clegg proposed in 2005) or a Thatcherite self-pay system.

SOS NHS is a comprehensive report listing the dangers of the Health and Social Care Bill. The report is full of examples and evidence showing how the government’s policy is already failing, and how healthcare will get worse under the bill. It is a must read for everyone fighting the bill. The full report is available online here.

Richard Blogger writes about the NHS and social policy at NHS Vault.


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