In the beginning
In 1948 our government instituted a ground breaking organisation. It created a system that granted access to healthcare to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, not discriminating by gender, race or lifestyle choices. It was called the National Health Service or the NHS.
Our NHS was created immediately after the Second World War, when the country had nothing.
Our health service is not free, it is paid for through taxes. BUT, no one is ever bankrupted because they get sick, no-one dies because they are poor.
What was it like before the NHS?
Here is a passage:
“I will never forget seeing as a teenager the faces of former soldiers who had been broken physically and mentally during the Great War and were living rough in the back alleys of Bradford. Their faces were haunted not by the brutality of the war but by the savagery of the peace. Nor will I forget as long as I shall live the screams that fell out of dosshouse windows from the dying and mentally ill, who were denied medicine and solace because they didn’t have the money to pay for medical services.”
Click here for the full article: “Hunger, filth, fear and death”
Was it successful?
The organisation thrived; up to 2010 healthcare per capita was amongst the cheapest in the world and had some of the best patient outcomes. See the chart below:
Is it supported?
NHS staff, despite being poorly paid compared to other healthcare workers around the globe, are passionate about their work, their patients and their NHS.
It has unprecedented support, over 90% of the population believe in the NHS, across the entire political spectrum.
Despite this background of quality, efficiency, passion and support, our current government has instigated a sustained attack on the very foundation of this noble institution.
So what’s the problem?
In 2012 the government enacted legislation that absolved the itself from its duty to provide universal healthcare for its citizens and opened the NHS up fully to marketization.
They have divided the NHS into 44 ‘footprints’ or STPs. These STPs have the objective of cutting costs and moving the NHS into an an Accountable Care system. In theory the Accountable Care Systems are a good idea, joining up Social Care and Healthcare, making sure people don’t stay in hospital longer than they need. Unfortunately, the proposals seem to suggest that actually some key services will be centralised, meaning losses to local hospitals. For example in my area, there are suggestions that Bedford may lose it’s A&E, Maternity and Paediatrics to Luton & Dunstable. Recently it has been announced that Luton & Dunstable Hospital will take over Bedford Hospital. Worryingly, when a similar change happened to Hemel hospital, they did indeed lose their vital services. How can losing beds and services improve the NHS? This is about shrinking the NHS and driving us into the arms of private providers
But privatization can mean increased efficiency and savings?
Marketization is not working in the NHS, official 2013 figures showed that the internal market bureaucracy cost the taxpayer £4.9 billion per year. Estimated figures for 2016 could put figures in the region of £9 billion,although this is extremely hard to quantify. The commercial market is not reducing costs and is driving down quality as witnessed by NHS staff and patients across the nation.
On top of increased administration, the private providers select only the most profitable aspects of care, where previously any surplus was spent on care or invested, this is now creamed off to off shore bank accounts.
I write this as a businesswoman, I believe in business, but I also strongly believe in democracy and I know you do too. Our government has no mandate to make these changes. Healthcare modeled on private company profit is not wanted, it is OUR NHS and it is being stolen from under us.
What can we do?
We need to raise awareness. We need to campaign locally. Find out what is going on, search for your STP and find out about local public consultations, email your MPs and councillors, start a Facebook group, invite local like minded people to form a campaign group. You can start now, even without firm proposals you can make sure they know you are watching!