Jonathan Bartley runs through the Green Party's plan to protect our NHS - hint: it's public ownership
We love our NHS - keep it public
The NHS promises to provide good healthcare to everyone and it looks after, on average, 1 million people every 36 hours. If you get ill, have an accident, need an operation, have a baby – the NHS is there for you. What an amazing way to reduce everyone’s stress levels and create a more caring society.
As if that wasn’t enough, the NHS is also super efficient. The NHS is one of the best healthcare systems in the world – and unlike many others, remains free at the point of delivery.
But the government is threatening the healthcare we all have access to, with cuts and privatisation. We need to take action now to save our NHS.
"Nowhere in any nation in the world any health service to compare with it"
Back in 1948, humans did one of the best things we've ever done. We invented the NHS. The NHS would be there for everyone, rich or poor, if they had problems with their health and needed looking after.
Today the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world according to a 2014 Commonwealth Fund study, as well as the second-cheapest of those analysed.
Wtf is going on?
The Conservatives decided a long time ago that they wanted to privatise our NHS (back in 2005 or even 1982). But 84% of us believe the NHS should be in public ownership, so they have had to be sneaky in carrying out their plans. This is how they're doing it:
The government introduced the 2012 Health and Social Care Act so that NHS services could be contracted out to 'any qualified provider', including private companies. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are under pressure to outsource and in 2015, private firms won 40% of all contracts. Private firms providing services for the NHS will often operate under the NHS logo, so it is difficult to know whether your treatment is being provided by a for-profit company.
Taking the N out of the NHS
The 2012 Act also removed the government's duty to provide healthcare for everyone. Local commissioning groups are now responsible and they are allowed to withdraw NHS services or charge us for services. There are new plans to Slash, Trash and Privatise our NHS (STPs) across 44 areas in England. In effect, local areas are being forced to do the government's dirty work of cutting the NHS and paving the way for privatisation.
Making drastic cuts
The government's decision to cut billions of NHS funding has damaged the quality of NHS services. The NHS is already facing record waiting times. Now budgets will be cut further through STPs and lives could be lost as we lose A&Es across England. Cuts make people think that maybe our publicly owned NHS isn't working, so the private sector starts to look like a solution.
"That’s the standard technique of privatisation: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital."
Privatisation = waste
We've already wasted an unnecessary £250 billion by involving the private sector in building new hospitals through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) (expanded under New Labour). That's enough money to pay for the whole NHS for two years.
Now, instead of spending all our money on patient care, we're wasting at least £4.5 billion a year (and possibly as much as £10 billion a year) on running a market in the NHS. Administration costs rose from 5% of the NHS budget in 1979 to over 14% in 2010. 65% of local NHS leaders are spending extra on commissioning NHS services.
Privatisation = worse care
Across the world's richest 15 countries, wherever privatisation is introduced, research shows that healthcare gets less equal and it suggests that more people end up in hospital or dead.
Outsourcing our NHS services to private companies - whether it's cleaning, facilities management, GP 'out of hours' services, treatment centres, clinical services or IT - has often damaged the quality of patient care.
Here are just a few examples of privatisation going wrong:
- Private company Circle was the first to take over an NHS hospital, Hinchingbrooke, but it withdrew from the 10 year contract after three years, leaving the public to pick up the rest of the bill. The Care Quality Commission found that the company was neglecting patients and had inadequate hygiene standards.
Private company Coperforma was given a contract to run the NHS’s South East Coast non-emergency ambulance service. After hundreds of patients - including people with cancer and kidney failure - repeatedly missed important appointments for treatment, the NHS launched an investigation into the service.
Private company Serco was forced to pull out of a contract to provide out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall after it emerged that the company had been falsifying data and that it had a ‘bullying culture' which discouraged whistleblowing in the interests of patients.
Why would we copy America?
If we continue down the path we're on, we could end up like the US with its private, insurance-based system. The US spends nearly double what we spend but does worse than other countries on most measures, especially on efficiency, access and equity. Lots of people have no care at all in the US and more people die.
In Scotland, people are happier with the NHS - perhaps because it is run differently, without competition and markets. Satisfaction with the NHS has increased there by 20% since 2005. For the UK as a whole, satisfaction has fallen 10% from its 2010 peak.
Let's protect our NHS
With a public NHS, you know that you, your friends, your family and community will get looked after, reducing your stress and making sure you're taken care of when you're going through the toughest times.
The NHS makes us more civilised, more caring, more compassionate. The people who created it had a vision for our country that was about more than profits going to their mates in Virgin Care. Bevan didn't create the NHS so it could be sold off to Richard Branson and co, he created it to keep us and our society healthy and strong. The NHS is there for all of us when we need it - now it needs us.
Photo used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Salim Fadhley https://www.flickr.com/photos/salimfadhley/
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