How austerity caused the NHS crisis

The A&E delays can be traced back to Cameron – and have been worsened by successive health secretaries

Original article republished from Open Democracy under  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

NHS sign

Danny Dorling

4 January 2023, 1.19pm

When the coalition government first introduced its landmark Health and Social Care Act in 2010, health secretary Andrew Lansley claimed the NHS would never again need to undergo such huge organisational change.

But even at the time, one widely respected commentator warned that – far from being the final fix that Lansley had advertised – the act “could become this government’s ‘poll tax’”.

In the event, it has been a slow-burn poll tax. Only now, ten years after it came into law, are we seeing its full effects, with publications from The Times to the Morning Star reporting that “A&E delays are ‘killing up to 500 people a week’”.

This figure – 5% above the normal number of people who die each week, though that baseline is also rising – can surely be traced back to the act, which ushered in a greater wave of privatisation than ever before. It compelled NHS management to behave as if they were in the private sector, competing to win business, and led to an increase in the proportion of contracts won and the use of contracts overall.

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At the time, the damage caused was little noticed because government cuts in the first round of austerity targeted local authorities and adult social care. The first group of people to see their life expectancy fall were elderly women who most often lived on their own. It was in 2014 that this connection became apparent.

Back then, the government was still confident, with the Department for Health and Social Care rebutting any suggestion that austerity and privatisation might be linked to mortality. The privatisation figures were also opaque. In 2015, halfway through Jeremy Hunt’s tenure as health secretary, it was reported that ministers were misleading the public. By that point, private firms were winning 40% of new contracts – far higher than the 6% spend share claimed by the government and almost identical to the 41% won by NHS bodies.

The first great increase in mortality was recorded in that same year, a 5% rise that the government tried to attribute to influenza. The problem with that explanation was that the stalling and falls in life expectancy were not seen to the same extent anywhere else in Europe.

Last year it was claimed that austerity since 2010 had led to a third of a million excess deaths

By 2019, life expectancy for women had fallen in almost a fifth of all neighbourhoods and in over a tenth for men. Poorer people, both old and young, in poorer areas suffered most, with infant mortality among babies born to the poorest parents rising. Later there was a rise in deaths of women who were pregnant.

As NHS waiting lists spiralled, a tenth of all adults, most of those who could, were resorting to accessing private health care in 2021. But, in doing so, they lengthened the lists further by jumping the queues and thus diverting resources.

By April 2022, the number of vacant beds in hospitals was at an all-time low. Estimates of the damage done kept rising. Less than six months later, it was claimed that austerity since 2010 had led to a third of a million excess deaths, twice as many as from the pandemic.

Now, A&E departments are stretched to capacity, unable to clear patients to other beds in our hospitals as they could in the past. Those other beds cannot be cleared as they were before because adult social care has been repeatedly decimated, with what is left being tendered out to private companies.

All of this was foretold. In the four years after 2015, the value of one group of private sector contracts in the NHS rose by 89%. These figures were released just before the 2019 general election, partly in response to Matt Hancock, then the health secretary, claiming that “there is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch.”

Again, the damage was not so much through the extent of covert privatisation, but through the wider ethos that had been promoted. Take the USA: most of the enormous amount of money spent on healthcare there has little impact on improving health, because the ethos is wrong.

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It is sometimes said – wrongly, that is – that the NHS has not been further privatised because the share of its spending that went to the private sector remained roughly the same between 2012 and 2020. By 2020 that share was about 7%, or just under £10bn a year. It rose to over £12bn during the pandemic when the government paid private hospitals to treat patients, but because overall health spending rose, the proportion remained roughly the same, still around 7%.

But the number of private companies involved did increase greatly, particularly in areas where there was already more private healthcare. By last year, private firms were delivering a quarter of all planned NHS hospital treatment in the least deprived areas of England, and 11% in the most deprived areas. Those shares – which have risen since 2020 – are higher than the overall 7% because it is in planned hospital treatment where the private sector has most infiltrated the NHS.

Last year, the Health and Care Act of 2022 put paid to Lansley’s claim that he had fixed the NHS ‘once and for all’. The act reduces the compulsion of the NHS from having to tender so many services to private sector bidding in future, but it was not designed to stop the rot. It will not solve the service’s problems, though there is hope that it could be the beginning of an actual change in ethos.

The pandemic made the effects of privatisation clear: Britons now have the worst access to healthcare in Europe and some of the worst post-pandemic outcomes. But the successive health secretaries who inflicted this tragedy are unrepentant.

The pandemic made the effects of privatisation clear: Britons now have the worst access to healthcare in Europe and some of the worst post-pandemic outcomes. But the successive health secretaries who inflicted this tragedy are unrepentant.

In 2018, Lansley criticised Hunt’s cuts in screening services, blaming them for delaying the detection of his bowel cancer. Hunt, meanwhile, went on to become foreign secretary and then chancellor of the exchequer. His legacy, as openDemocracy’s Caroline Molloy wrote last year, is “one of missed targets, lengthening waits, crumbling hospitals, missed opportunities, false solutions, funding boosts that vanished under scrutiny, and blaming everyone but himself.” Hancock is now most remembered for eating a camel penis and cow anus on live TV for money.

Belligerence, bravado and buffoonery. We got here because too many of us believed the words of fools.

Original article republished from Open Democracy under  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingHow austerity caused the NHS crisis

NHS faces ‘crisis of the government’s making’

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/nhs-faces-crisis-of-the-governments-making

The lying EU bus promoting money for the NHS when all the anti-EU shites are anti-NHS Neo-Liberal shites.
The lying anti-EU bus promoting money for the NHS when all the anti-EU shites are anti-NHS Neo-Liberal shites.

Austerity-hit services are ‘bursting at the seams’ as waiting lists balloon to record high of over seven million

THE NHS is facing a “crisis of the government’s making,” the labour movement stressed yesterday after official figures showed treatment waiting lists have ballooned to a record high of more than seven million people.

Unison slammed the numbers, saying they “paint a bleak picture of the state of the NHS.

“There are too few staff to provide safe patient care, and as more leave for better paid work, so waiting times and delays worsen,” head of health Sara Gorton stressed.

“The government must get a grip and start talking to unions about pay.”

Continue ReadingNHS faces ‘crisis of the government’s making’

UK politics news

A selection of recent UK and international news articles

Continue ReadingUK politics news

Commentary on and analysis of recent political events

The big story today is the current UK coalition government’s attempts to hide the UK’s part in torture and rendition under the Tony Blair government. Despite repeated denials by liar Jack Straw at the time, evidence has surfaced that Tony Bliar’s government conducted illegal renditions. It is widely accepted that Blair’s government had little regard for the law, truth or justice.

Image of liars Jack Straw and Tony BlairUK inquiry on rendition and torture to be handed to ISC

The stalled official inquiry into the UK’s involvement in rendition and torture in the years after 9/11 is to be handed to the controversial intelligence and security committee (ISC), the government will announce on Thursday.

The decision follows years of assurances by ministers that the inquiry would be headed by a senior judge.

It is a move that will dismay human rights groups. The ISC is the oversight body that failed to report publicly on the bulk surveillance operations being conducted by the UK’s signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, and it has already conducted one inquiry into rendition, after which it cleared MI5 and MI6 of blame.

The extent to which the agencies were involved in the abuse of terrorism suspects may be outlined on Thursday with the publication of a redacted version of an interim report of the stalled inquiry that was led by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired appeal court judge.

Gibson is said to be calling for further investigation into the UK’s involvement in the rendition of two Libyan opposition leaders and their families to Tripoli in 2004, and the role played by Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time. Straw was not available for comment but has previously denied any wrongdoing. MI6 is reported to have confronted him with documentary evidence that he personally authorised the agency’s involvement in the rendition operations.

NHS sign

Poorest areas to get extra NHS money to tackle ill health

The poorest parts of England are to receive extra money to tackle ill health after NHS bosses rejected plans to divert resources from there to wealthy areas.

NHS England’s decision means that scores of GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in deprived areas will no longer see their budgets cut from April. Its board has defied the Department of Health by throwing out its plans to make the age of the local population, not the level of deprivation, a key factor in the allocation of NHS funding.

Labour MPs had claimed that such a move would lead to almost £1bn being shifted from poor areas which have low life expectancy to wealthier places where residents live longer.

Instead NHS England has opted to give all 211 CCGs rises of at least the rate of inflation both next year and in 2015-16, and give those serving the most deprived places extra money to help cope with the demand caused by ingrained health problems. It was obliged to do that to help meet its legal duty to reduce health inequalities and differences in life expectancy between rich and poor areas, said chief financial officer Paul Baumann….

For the Sake of Humanity Society Must Unleash War on the Tories

The campaign of hate being waged by this government of rich, privileged, and privately educated sociopaths against the poor, the unemployed, and those who dare try to claim the benefits to which they are entitled is unparalleled in modern history. Even Thatcher in her pomp was not as malicious in her treatment of the aforementioned demographic. This was not because she didn’t wish to be more malicious than she was, it was because when she came to power we still had trade unions capable and willing to resist such an onslaught, meaning that the cost involved in even attempting to rip up the foundations of the welfare state and the collective ethos which lies at its heart would have been too damaging to her government and party to make worthwhile.

Three decades on and the fruits of Thatcherism – with the corresponding neutering of the unions and other forms of working class solidarity – have culminated in a new normal of demonisation and the near criminalisation of poverty in Britain. Austerity has been sold to the country as a policy of necessity in response to years of Labour profligacy and a bloated public sector. It is a lie so bold and barefaced that even Joseph Goebbels would blush while repeating it.

Prisoners serving less than a year should be allowed to vote, says Parliamentary committee

Prisoners serving sentences of 12 months or less should be given the vote, the Government is today told by an all-party parliamentary committee.

It also called for all inmates who are within six months of release to be entitled to take part in elections.

The recommendations will not be welcome in Downing Street as David Cameron has said he would feel “physically sick” if prisoners were allowed to vote.

Britain is locked in an eight-year battle with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which has ruled that the blanket ban on prisoner voting is incompatible with European law.

Government to make 40 per cent of Britain available for fracking

The vast disruption that could be caused across the country by fracking has been laid bare, with the Government announcing it would make 40 per cent of Britain available to companies to explore for oil and gas next year.

Local communities could be subjected to thousands of wells being dug every year in the search for fossil fuels – requiring billions of litres of water, with dozens of lorries passing by every day – after the Coalition said it would put oil and gas licences covering 100,000 square kilometres up for auction next summer.

The auction, which would give the licence-winners exclusive rights to explore an area for oil and gas, but would require additional permits for fracking, would add to the 19,000 square kilometres of licences that have already been sold to hydrocarbon producers.

Ian Watkins abuse: police forces to be investigated by IPCC

Investigations are under way to find out if three police forces should have done more to pursue allegations of sex abuse, dating back to 2008, against Ian Watkins.

Watkins, the 36-year-old former Lostprophets lead singer, is to be sentenced on Wednesday for a string of offences including the attempted rape of a baby.

Before his sentencing, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it was investigating police forces in South Wales, where Watkins lived, but also South Yorkshire and Bedfordshire. One line of inquiry is whether officers failed to look properly into Watkins’s activities because of his celebrity status.

The IPCC’s commissioner Jan Williams said: “No one can fail to be shocked by the vile details of Ian Watkins’s offending that emerged in court last month.

“Questions are now rightly being asked as to whether Ian Watkins could have been brought to justice sooner, what steps were taken by police in response to allegations made against him as far back as 2008 and whether his celebrity status had any impact on the investigation.” He added, however, that the investigation was complex and would take time.

Continue ReadingCommentary on and analysis of recent political events

The war of austerity is bogus

It needed to be said and well done to Michael Meacher MP for saying it: the war of austerity is bogus, fake, manufactured. The solution is simple says Meacher: the filthy rich are getting filthier rich, tax them. Of course – if you’re filthy rich, you will not ever even notice being slightly less filthy rich.

Meacher’s article is well presented and appears very well researched. Meacher consistently shows competence and capablity and is willing to address the big, important issues – often even against his own party’s policies. We need far more politicians like Meacher.

 

How to kickstart the UK economy – at zero cost to 99% of us

By imposing a capital gains tax charge at 28% on the seriously rich 0.003% we could create 1.5m jobs over the next two years

Michael Meacher

According to the annual Sunday Times Rich List, the richest 1,000 persons now sit atop of £414bn, a sum more than three times the size of the entire UK budget deficit. The richest 1% of the population, about 300,000 persons with an income of more than £3,000 a week, are estimated to possess wealth of about £1tn. The richest 10% control wealth of about £4tn. To put these figures in perspective, Britain’s total GDP is £1.45tn.

Consider first that minuscule group in the stratosphere at the top, Britain’s thousand richest. In 1997 they held assets of £99bn, but they took full advantage of New Labour’s being “intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich” to nearly quadruple this to £336bn by 2010. That process of gargantuan enrichment now means that in order to get access to this exclusive club, one needs personally to command assets of at least £450m to get into the top 200, £750m to get into the richest 100, and no less than £1.4bn to break into the top 50.

It’s not only that the very rich have colossal wealth, they also overwhelmingly monopolise it. The richest 1% of the population own a quarter of total UK wealth, and the richest half control no less than 94% of total wealth. Ownership of land is even more skewed: 69% of it is owned by 0.3% of the population.

What, then, should be done? In the short term, the most feasible approach is to impose a capital gains tax charge at the current rate of 28% on the topmost layers of wealth, the £155bn gains amassed by the 0.003% over the last three years. That would yield £43bn, more than enough to generate the public investment to create 1.5 million jobs over the next two years. This could then steadily be extended to the remainder of the top 1%, which would provide the funds to widen and deepen the early recovery.

A wealth tax and land value tax, the details of which would have to be carefully drafted, should then follow in the medium term, and would achieve several purposes. They would resuscitate a public sector ravaged by the Tory ideological assault, curtail the grossest excesses of inequality that have disfigured the last three decades, and lay the foundations for an industrial and technological revival without which British living standards cannot be sustained. And all this without burdening the remaining 99% of the population.

Michael Meacher’s blog

Continue ReadingThe war of austerity is bogus