Tuesday 19 August 2014

12 things you should know about the Tory NHS "reforms"

In this article I'm going to explain twelve things that you should know about the Tories and the NHS.

I have also uploaded a version of this article to Buzzfeed, which contains more pictures but fewer words. You can see that here.

David Cameron Lied about the NHS

Before the 2010 general election David Cameron promised "no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS", then within months of coming to power his Health secretary Andrew Lansley launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the history of the NHS (the Health and Social Care Act). Cameron also made the pre-election promise that the Tories would "cut the deficit, not the NHS", before launching £20 billion worth of NHS cuts.

Michael Portillo admitted the truth

In 2011 the former Tory leadership candidate Michael Portillo admitted that David Cameron and the Tories had lied to the public about their intentions towards the NHS before the 2010 General Election: "They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS."

Portillo was right, the privatisation of the NHS is a very unpopular idea

According to a 2013 YouGov poll, 84% of the public would prefer to see the NHS run as a not-for-profit public service, whilst just 7% favour privatisation. [source]

Even though they were facing a Labour party led by an incredibly unpopular and blunder prone leader in Gordon Brown, and in the wake of the biggest economic meltdown in generations, the Tories were still incapable of even winning a majority government. Had they admitted their intentions to carve up the NHS and hand out the pieces to their corporate mates, this would surely have cost them hundreds of thousands of votes, and potentially left Labour to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Loads of Tory politicians have vested interests in the privatisation of the NHS

Dozens and dozens of the Tory MPs and Lords who voted in favour of the privatisation of the NHS had clear vested financial interests in private health corporations. Here is a detailed list of some of those politicians who look set to benefit from the NHS privatisation bill they voted for.

One of the most notable examples is Lazy Lord Coe, who barely ever turns up to vote in the House of Lords (he voted in just 7.9% of debates between 2000 and 2013). However when the opportunity to benefit his numerous private health interests (PruHealth, AMT Sybex, Chime Communications) presented itself, he was amongst many Tory lords with financial interests in the private health sector to make rare appearances in the House of Lords and vote in favour of greater NHS privatisation.

The Tories have been carving up the NHS and giving away the pieces to their donors
Circle Health, which is 29.2% owned by a hedge fund run by major Tory party donor Paul Ruddock has been handed over £1.3 billion in NHS contracts. Other Tory party donors with major investments in Circle Health include Martyn Arbib, Crispin Odey and Michael Platt.

 Care UK has received over £100 million in NHS contracts. Their chairman is John Nash who has made £247,250 worth of donations to the Tory party. Aside from his company picking up huge NHS contract as a result of Tory party legislation, he has also been handed a seat in the unelected House of Lords.


The NHS is one of the best health services in the world

A recent study by the Washington based Commonwealth Fund has shown that the NHS is one of the best, cheapest and most efficient health services in the world, whilst the private sector dominated US health system is the worst, most expensive and least efficient of the eleven different health care systems that they looked at. The NHS reforms introduced by the Tory party are designed to make the NHS much more like the US system by bringing in ever more private health corporations to take over NHS services. The Tory mantra about bringing in the private sector to "make the NHS more efficient" is just a smokescreen. The real reason for bringing in the private sector is to soak as much profit out of the system as possible, with no regards for the quality or efficiency of the service.

Jeremy Hunt

In 2009 the Tory MP Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book which called for the NHS to be dismantled and called it "no longer relevant". In 2012 David Cameron appointed Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary, meaning that the man who is now responsible for the NHS is a man who has called for it to be completely abolished.

The fact that David Cameron would appoint a Health Secretary who is on record saying that the NHS should be abolished illustrates exactly how gullible he imagined the general public to be when he made the pre-election promise that "the NHS will be safe in my hands".

No Confidence

Medical professionals have voted time and again against the Tory NHS reforms. The British Medical Association have also passed motions of no-confidence against the current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and his predecessor Andrew Lansley. Virtually the entire medical profession is opposed to the Tories and their plot to privatise the NHS. It is quite impossible to make the NHS "more efficient" when the people in charge of it are conducting an ideological war against the people who actually run the service. What is needed is people in charge who want to work with the doctors and other medical professionals, rather than against them.

The myth of private sector efficiency

The facts that the private sector dominated US health system is hugely expensive and inefficient, whilst the public sector dominated NHS is rated as one of the most efficient in the world should be enough to convince most people that it is a complete myth that the private sector is somehow inherently more efficient than the public sector.

When it comes to health care provision it is quite easy to understand why greater private sector involvement causes inefficiencies in the system. If the NHS signs a 30 year PFI contract for a new hospital, or outsources the provision of health care services to a private health company on a 25 year contract, these contracts can only be escaped from at enormous cost in compensation. Even modifying the contracts to take account of changing needs is extraordinarily expensive. When such long term contracts are signed, the NHS is legally obliged to continue paying for them, no matter what the changing health care requirements of the community.

These obligations build inflexibility and inefficiency into the system. When the health system operates under a single umbrella, services can be modified with relative ease, but when contracts with hedge funds, private equity groups and multinational healthcare companies have been signed, any modifications incur large financial costs.

Forced hospital closures

The Princess Regent University Hospital (which cost £118 million to construct) was built in South London, but under the terms of the PFI contract, the amount repayable over the decades will be £2.5 billion, returning a handsome 70.6% profit to the PFI consortium.

The extraordinary costs of paying off this PFI debt crippled the South London Healthcare Trust, forcing them to look for savings. The proposal they came up with was a plan to shut down the Accident and Emergency department and the maternity ward at Lewisham Hospital, and to sell off the land and buildings in order to raise £17 million towards paying their PFI debts. This plan would have left Lewisham (population 750,000) without an A&E or maternity ward, and sparked large public protests and a legal challenge against the decision to shut down most of the hospital and sell off the land.

The legal challenge against the closure of Lewisham A&E was successful, but this victory for people power was a short lived one. The response of the Tory party was to pass new legislation to allow the Health Secretary the power to shut down any NHS run hospital, no matter how efficiently the services is run, in just 40 days. As a result, next time a local health authority gets into financial difficulties as a result of their PFI debts, the Tories can simply shut down a load of local NHS run services in order to protect the profits of rip-off PFI consortia, no matter how efficient the NHS services are, or how strong the public opposition.

More Tory lies

Here's one undeniable example of lies from the Tory party manifesto.
"We will stop the forced closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services, and give mothers a real choice over where to have their baby, with NHS funding following their decisions." 
2010 Conservative Party Manifesto, page 47

The Tories attempt to force the closure of the A&E and maternity ward at Lewisham Hospital, but were defeated in the courts.

The Tories pass new legislation to make it much easier for the Health Secretary force the closure of NHS hospitals and services.

And here's another example.


"We will make patients’ choices meaningful by putting patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records."
2010 Conservative Party Manifesto, page 47

The Tories table new legislation aimed at allowing private health corporations to buy access to people's private health records without their consent. After a huge public outcry against this plan the Tories were forced to postpone their plan to sell off our medical data. However within a week of them shelving their data sharing plans it was revealed that 47 million private medical records had already been sold off to a private insurance company.

The Tories and the NHS eventually admitted that the records shouldn't have been sold off without anyone's consent, so I suppose that's alright then!

Privatising the profits, socialising the losses

The most recent example of privatising the profits and socialising the losses can be seen in the botched eye operations carried out at the NHS Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton by the private sector contractor Vanguard Health. 30 of the 60 operations carried out by the private company led to complications, including complete blindness in one case. After just four days the NHS Hospital terminated the contract with Vanguard, but it seems that the NHS hospital will be held liable for compensations to the victims of these botched eye operations carried out on NHS premises by a private company. Another example of the taxpayer having to pay out for the failings of private health companies can be in the case of the Lister Surgicentre in Stevenage, which was run by the private company Clinicenta until the contract was terminated early in 2013 due to poor standards of care. In order to terminate the contract, the taxpayer had to fork out £53 million in compensation to Clinicenta.

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