A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
The government’s deliberate dismantling of parts of the NHS risks returning healthcare provision back to the grim and unfair days of the 1930s and 40s, one of Britain’s leading doctors has warned.
The sweeping reforms are in danger of turning the service into “an increasingly tattered safety net” for those with complex illnesses such as diabetes and obesity because private healthcare firms will “cherry-pick” patients who are easy to treat, said Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association’s hospital consultants committee.
Its ability to provide a comprehensive and universal service could be lost because of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plan to force hospitals to compete with independent, profit-driven providers for patients, Porter told the Guardian.
Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms are set to come under increased pressure as Liberal Democrat rebels begin to take a public stance against them.
Two Lib Dem rebels – who broke from their party and voted against the rise in tuition fees – have signed a Commons motion by Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, demanding caution in the implementation of the reforms.
The motion said positive elements of the bill were “threatened” by increased competition and a lack of accountability.
A top British Medical Association (BMA) doctor’s analysis that the NHS ‘reforms’ risk returning health services to the 1930s is spot on, said Unite, the largest union in the country, yesterday.
Unite, which embraces the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU), welcomed the comments of Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the BMA’s hospital consultants committee who said that the government wished to turn back the clock to the 1930s and 1940s, when there were private, charitable and co-operative providers.
The President of Unite/MPU, Dr Ron Singer said: ‘Dr Porter’s comments will give additional ammunition for those attending next Tuesday’s (15 March) special BMA conference to make their voices heard – that the privatisation agenda contained in the Health and Social Care Bill is pernicious, ill thought-out and unfair. His analysis is spot on.’
RCN members say there is growing evidence that pressure to save money in the NHS in England is affecting the quality and safety of care.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, one health care assistant at an accident and emergency unit in north west England said staff were stressed and tired: “At the end of the day we try to do the best we can and they probably will pick up on the fact that we are short [staffed]. They are waiting longer for painkillers, waiting longer to be assessed.”
A diabetes ward nurse said shortages were putting safety at risk, because of mistakes in medication: “A lot of drugs have similar sounding names or look similar. So you have to be careful all the time. So whereas you used to take a bit of time, speak to the patient – and they usually know what they’re on anyway – but obviously because you’re rushing you haven’t got time to speak to the patient properly and find out.”
Two rebel Liberal Democrat MPs have thrown their weight behind calls to make major changes to the government’s proposed NHS reforms.
John Pugh and Andrew George have come out in support of Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop’s House of Commons motion, which claims that secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans will put the NHS at risk due to a lack of accountability and increased competition.
The coalition government will be nervously anticipating the Lib Dems spring conference this weekend where more widespread opposition to the changes from within the party could be made public after an amendment to oppose the reforms was tabled.
Campaigners have been rallying patients and politicians to lobby against the Government’s Health And Social Care Bill – which they claim will put unnecessary pressure on already overwhelmed doctors.
Under the proposals, GPs would be required to form consortiums in which they would have financial and administerial control over the services they offer – on top of their day-to-day duties.
Tottenham MP David Lammy is the latest political heavyweight to back the campaign.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has defended his reorganisation of the NHS to doctors, saying it will cut unnecessary levels of management and cut costs in the long run.
Lansley said his programme of reforms will save the NHS around £5 billion by 2015, despite a high initial cost as the changes are put in place.
The health secretary was in a combative mood during a live webcast to British Medical Association members yesterday, and become notably irritated at several questions.
Hospital campaigners say they have discovered a “large fall” in the number of certain NHS operations performed in England last year.
The Patients Association expressed “great concern” that figures collected from a third of acute trusts showed a 5% drop in key surgical procedures and longer waiting times for some operations.
But the Department of Health said its own statistics suggested that more surgery was carried out in some areas highlighted in the survey as offering fewer operations.