Jacqueline Davis has an article in the Guardian arguing that the ‘listening exercise was a PR coup for the government. “Very little of significance had changed and the bill is still on course to achieve its underlying intention, accelerating the privatisation of the health service, turning the NHS into a kitemark attached to a ragbag of competing and largely private providers.”
Top heart specialist Professor Roger Boyle said he planned to retire, partly in protest at government reform of the health service. He launched an angry attack on health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans, saying they would abolish ‘large chunks of the NHS’.
- Conservative election poster 2010
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.
Andrew Lansley’s privatisation remains on track, hidden by a public relations smokescreen
After the so-called “listening exercise” many commentators are talking about a humiliating U-turn by the government over the NHS “reforms” and claiming there have been significant changes to Andrew Lansley’s health and social care bill. But they are the victims of a massive PR coup by the government, which must be delighted with its strategy.
A well-orchestrated political storm greeted the report of the Future Forum, with Liberal Democrats claiming they had ticked nearly all their boxes and Conservative backbenchers complaining that the “reforms” had been betrayed by their coalition partners. Even Alan Milburn was dusted off to say that the “reforms” were now a “car crash” as a result of being watered down too much.
But, if you had listened carefully while all this was going on, you would have heard Lansley reassuring his backbenchers that the core principles of the bill remained in place and that no red lines had been crossed, and he was quite right. Very little of significance had changed and the bill is still on course to achieve its underlying intention, accelerating the privatisation of the health service, turning the NHS into a kitemark attached to a ragbag of competing and largely private providers.
All the mechanisms to do this are still in place. Private companies can still be involved in commissioning NHS services and these services will still be delivered by any “qualified” provider. Thus the commercial sector can still hold the budget and provide the care. Competition, the aspect of the reforms that most worries doctors, emerges almost intact.
The rhetoric has been toned down and been rebranded as “choice”. However, the code of practice that governs it will be put on a statutory footing, and the responsibility for ensuring that competition trumps other considerations is passed to the Orwellian Co-operation and Competition Panel. They move into Monitor, so claims that Monitor is no longer concerned with competition are premature, if not misleading.
Foundation trust timetables have been relaxed but there is still no cap on their private income, meaning that many will be tempted to boost their dwindling resources by increasing private patient numbers, inevitably at the expense of NHS patients. The secretary of state’s “duty to provide” comprehensive health care is now so obscure that teams of lawyers are working their way through the legalese in an attempt to understand it. If this is meant to be straightforward, why not return to the original wording? Worrying evidence is also emerging that the bill will specifically make provision for private equity companies to buy NHS facilities and asset strip them. Is this really what David Cameron intended when he claimed that he loved the NHS?
Hospital waiting times will grow and patients’ access to treatments will be limited because of the squeeze on health spending, more than half of NHS chief executives and chairmen believe.
The warning from the heads of nearly 250 health providers comes as the NHS sets out to save £20bn from its budget over four years. Yesterday Andrew Lansley admitted that the NHS would have to find £4bn of savings next year because of the increased demands on the service.
“We are taking steps to cut the costs of administration and focus resources on the front line,” he said.
But in the first survey of NHS organisations since the Government’s efficiency drive was implemented, managers said reducing administration costs alone would not be enough and that tough decisions on cutting and merging services would have to be made.
One in five said they believed the quality of care their institutions offer will decrease over the next 12 months while almost a third thought care would get worse over the next three years.
Nearly 50 per cent said the financial situation facing their organisation was “the worst they had ever experienced”, while an additional 47 per cent said it was “very serious”.
Patients’ health and treatment could suffer because NHS waiting-times for x-rays, cardiology tests and ultrasound scans are increasing sharply, doctors are warning.
Longer waits to access diagnostic tests could cause anxiety for patients and mean that identification of serious illnesses such as cancer is delayed, they say.
Their warning comes as new NHS figures show that 15,667 patients waited more than six weeks to undergo a diagnostic procedure in May alone – a more than fourfold increase on the same month in 2010, when 3,378 did so.
The figures again call into question David Cameron’s promise to ensure that waiting times do not rise, despite the growing demand for healthcare and tough financial climate in the NHS. He made that one of his “five personal pledges” to voters on the NHS last month.
The flagship 18-week target for patients to be treated after first consulting a GP is also under pressure. Quarterly data in that area, due next week, is expected to show another fall. Performance on other waiting-time markers is also slipping, such as the four-hour wait to be seen in A&E.
The latest statistics covering access to diagnostic procedures, covering May 2011, showed that 2.7% of patients were left waiting for six weeks or longer for diagnosis results. A further 1,800 patients waited more than three months – an almost tenfold increase on last year’s figure of 217. Average waiting times also increased year-on-year, but to a lesser degree. The typical wait for diagnosis increased to 1.9 weeks in May 2011 versus 1.8 weeks a year before.
The expert charged with reviewing heart services at a Greater Manchester hospital is quitting his role with the NHS.
The country’s top heart specialist Professor Roger Boyle said he planned to retire, partly in protest at government reform of the health service.
He launched an angry attack on health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans, saying they would abolish ‘large chunks of the NHS’.
His announcement threw a question mark over his review of heart services at Rochdale Infirmary – but bosses told the MEN his report has been completed and will still be used by hospital chiefs.
Prof Boyle visited the hospital in March and said major cutbacks at the Rochdale heart unit – the third biggest in the region – had made it unsafe.
27/11/13 Having received a takedown notice from the Independent newspaper for a different posting, I have reviewed this article which links to an article at the Independent’s website in order to attempt to ensure conformance with copyright laws.
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a. Only a small portion of the original article has been quoted satisfying the fair use criteria, and / or
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