Losing Our NHS

by Michaela Jewson

Here goes another rage article. I challenge you to read this article and not be shocked, sickened and appalled. The 2010 election campaigns of all political parties may have differed, but all major parties seemed to stand united in a pledge to protect our NHS both in quality and budget. David Cameron promised ‘No cuts to frontline services’, ‘real-terms increases’ to the NHS budget, and no more top-down reorganisations. Within weeks he began to break these promises. In the shadows; hidden behind euphemism, carefully worded contracts and cheery hospital visits; the Conservatives have spent the last 4 years making the NHS ready for sale.

Following the general election, 2011 marked the first fall in a decade and the biggest fall in NHS approval ratings in three decades, the ratings fell from 70% to 58%. Government ministers’ slating of the NHS in order to justify their reforms no doubt must have a role to play in this. The current coalition has starved the NHS and then taken to the headlines asking why it isn’t performing as well. It would indeed seem a very clever plan to create a situation in which the NHS

cannot perform to meet its targets, criticise it for failing and then begin to talk of ways to fix it. Ways like, I don’t know, offering deals to private companies? It seems our health service has fallen victim to a smear campaign, smeared with bad headlines in a preparation to be served to the bidder with the most connections. If you want to look for who is gaining from this then look no further than Westminster itself. ‘1 in 4 Conservative Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare’; Andrew Lansley himself has received at least two donations from individuals in private healthcare; ‘Nearly 40% of GPs on Clinical Commissioning Groups have an interest in selling products they are commissioning’. This is just the beginning of a list of shocking statistics linking MPs to private healthcare companies and suggesting  ulterior motive for awarding private companies NHS contracts.

All of this begs the question, how are firms making profit from NHS services that we are struggling to provide? Many of the companies being considered and

sometimes awarded these contracts have previously come under fire for substandard care in care homes and hospitals. If these companies do decide that the services they have chosen do not work as a business decision, they able to pick up and drop services as they please with little consequence or accountability, for example the return of Hinchingbrooke Hospital to the NHS after the private company running it failed to meet standards and came under scrutiny. There is no such ‘get out clause’ for the NHS to cut short the contract if the private firms fail to provide an adequate service.

In a recent scandal, Alliance medical has recently won a 10 year contract to provide diagnostic services despite their bid costing £7 million more than a bid from NHS trusts. When looking for an explanation for this, I can probably give you less than three guesses until you get it right. It cannot be confirmed but David Cameron has not yet revealed if ex-minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind influenced the deal with Alliance Medical, the Tory MP who actually sits on the board of the private healthcare provider has since resigned as an MP

after having been found accepting ‘cash for access’. 70% of contracts put out to tender are now won by private firms. This arrangement is even more worrying when coupled with the fact that the most recent contracts set performance targets and standards after deals are signed and the contract is won.

As shocking as the actions of the government is the cover up. The conservatives have recently ‘deleted every article, speech and press release released before the last election from their website’. Is this as they have said an effort to make the site easier to read or an effort to sweep under the rug the totality of the promises they have broken to date? Since the coalition has been in power we have lost: 5,870 NHS nurses, 7,968 hospital beds, a third of ambulance stations to name a few. The massive top down reorganisation that has occurred just weeks after the Tories promised it would not has diverted approximately £3 billion away from patient care.

My opinion? We won’t have an NHS anymore if we have another term of conservatives in Parliament.