"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzsche

22 May 2012

Speedy Boarding to Jump NHS Waiting Lists

Richard Branson, new face of the NHS
Have the vigilant British public missed something? When the UK Health and Social Care Bill was given royal assent on the 27th March this year, it effectively ended some of the founding principals of the NHS established in 1948, including removing the right of free access to health care for all. Yet there has been hardly a whimper in the media. 

As the British Medical Journal reports: “The bill sets out a new statutory framework that would abolish the duty of primary care trusts (PCTs) to secure health services for everyone living in a defined geographical area. New clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will arrange provision of fewer government funded health services and determine the scope of these services independently of the secretary of state for health. They may delegate this decision to commercial companies. The bill also provides for health services to be arranged by local authorities, with provision for new charging powers for services currently provided free through the NHS (clauses 1, 12, 13, 17, and 49), and it will give the secretary of state an extraordinary power to exclude people from the health service.”

And so the private sector has been given the go-ahead to undercut the NHS, forcing GPs to open the door to the cheapest bidder in an attempt to manage their budgets. At the same time, the private patient income cap, previously set at 2%, has been lifted to 49% for foundation hospitals, allowing NHS beds to be prioritised for privately funded operations in a attempt to increase revenue. For those who can afford it, even more will now be able to jump the queue for health care forcing those who can’t to wait even longer for non-emergency operations. 

The new Health and Social Care Act (2012) allows “any qualified provider” to compete for health contracts, and £2bn of NHS services are now up for grabs to the highest bidder. According to Virgin Care’s own website they are now providing over 100 NHS services nationwide, including Surrey Community Health Services, which they bought for £500m, and sexual health services in Milton Keynes, West Sussex and Teeside  Virgin Care giving a whole new meaning to sexual health. Virgin now operate in 15 counties of England 
including Liverpool & Birmingham. 

And in case your wondering how it was possible that this Bill ever got through the House of Lords, one independent investigator trawling through the MP and Lords register of interests identified 142 Lords (including 1 in 4 of all Conservative peers) with financial interests in companies involved in private healthcare, a full list of whom can be viewed on this link. Hardly surprising then that the Bill was passed and begging the question of why our parliamentary system is not protected from such blatant self interests. As evidenced by the map above, the Welsh and Scots might yet be spared the worst ravages of the Act, as most of the changes so far affect only England. Welsh and Scottish parliaments are less likely to tolerate the inexorable shift towards America politics and healthcare of conservative England, further reinforcing these divisions and being more comfortable as semi-autonomous states within Europe.

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