reinstate our NHS
If you get ill, have an accident, need an operation, have a baby – the NHS is there for you. We all owe the NHS so much for looking after us during the COVID-19 pandemic - and NHS staff have made incredible sacrifices in order to save lives and reduce the spread of the virus.
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. In the last five years alone, private companies were handed £15 billion worth of NHS 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 plans to introduce 'Integrated Care Organisations' (previously 'Accountable Care Organisations') to manage the provision of NHS services across local regions. This will allow NHS service contracts to be packaged up and given to private healthcare organisations to run for years. These proposals have been passionately opposed by doctors and local campaigners, including the campaign to take Jeremy Hunt to court - JR4NHS.
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."
Toxic trade deals
Even with a pandemic forcing the country into lockdown, our government is still pressing ahead with negotiating trade deals. Our NHS is threatened by trade deals that are being negotiated with countries all over the world. Trade deals could lock in current levels of privatisation and make it so that we can't make laws to reverse or undo privatisation.
Trade deals with the US, in particular, could drive up the price the NHS pays for drugs. That means lifesaving treatments could be taken off the NHS, and only available to those who can pay. Our friends at Just Treatment are campaigning on keeping medicines available for those who need them.
In 2019 we campaigned hard to keep the NHS off the table in a Trump trade deal. The UK government is now adamant that the NHS won't be included in a trade deal with the US, but we need more than words to make sure that our NHS is protected.
So what can we do?
We can build on our success in 2019 by pushing for concrete legal protections for the NHS so that it is not affected by the terms of any trade deal.
And we can keep exposing the failures of private companies providing NHS services so that privatisation becomes unacceptable.
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 an internal market in the NHS. By ending the internal market, the savings we'd make would be enough to pay for 72,000 nurses and 20,000 doctors.
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.
Cleaning services are absolutely essential to slowing the spread of coronavirus within our healthcare system. Outsourcing these vital staff has restricted their ability to keep hospitals as clean as they need to be - during a deadly pandemic, which has terrible consequences.
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.
NHS privatisation can seem overwhelming, with all the jargon and acronyms, and a new sell-off nearly every week. But campaigners are winning victories for our NHS.
- In 2017, we campaigned to stop the privatisation of NHS Professionals, and won! The government announced it would keep NHS professionals in full public ownership after thousands of people took action against privatisation.
- The fightback against NHS subsidiary companies around the country has caused some councils to abandon their plans.
- The introduction of Integrated Care Organisations/ACOs has been stalled because MPs have raised concerns.
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 Rohin Francis https://www.flickr.com/photos/rohinfrancis/22080289729/