Are the Tories applying a scorched earth strategy to the NHS?

The Tories now seem not to care what we think of their NHS policies. Last election, it was all very different - a new book highlights how promises were made - then broken. 

Jacky Davis
25 March 2015
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Forty-two days til the election and worrying news about the NHS is arriving daily. It seems the Tories, fearful of losing in May, are determined to put their final mark on the NHS by hitting it with every bit of scorched earth policy they can think of.

The biggest surprise they’ve sprung in the last few weeks is ‘DevoManc’ - £6 billion worth of health and social care budgets signed over to 10 local councils in Greater Manchester. The move is viewed with suspicion and trepidation by most health commentators and campaigners – if for no other reason than that anything George Osborne is signing off with a big grin on his face is bound to be bad news.

And just weeks before the election the NHS signs a contract for £780m - the biggest-ever privatisation of its services - to help hospitals tackle the growing backlog of patients waiting for surgery and tests. The contract includes 3 companies – Circle, Vanguard and Care UK - who have already been heavily criticised for the poor care they delivered to NHS patients. Half of the private firms involved have links to the Tories.

And now OurNHS openDemocracy have leaked the details of the massive £1.2 billion contract lined up for cancer and end of life services in Staffs. The contents of the previously closely guarded plans have shocked health campaigners. It’s ‘no more than a blank cheque for whichever private firm is most ruthlessly willing to cut costs to shore up their own profits’, says John Lister of Health Emergency. No wonder there was no proper public consultation, only ‘weak engagements led by patient champions’. The public didn’t vote for a privatised NHS, doesn’t want it, and the politicians know it.

At this stage it looks as though the Coalition simply don’t care what we think about their shabby treatment of the NHS. But they were more careful when they came into power. Granted they broke promise after promise – infamously Cameron had promised no more top down reorganisations, and had featured on billboards above the slogan ‘We will cut the deficit not the NHS’.

But even while going back on their word they understood they had to persuade us that what they were doing – breaking up the NHS and paving the way for the private sector - was justified. So they created myths about the NHS and about Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, and sold them to an uncritical media. These myths - and outright lies - have become part received wisdom for many. There is plenty of evidence to disprove them, but we need a positive and concerted effort to dislodge them from the public consciousness.

It was the persistence of these myths and lies – zombie claims that continue to stalk the land long after they should have been killed off – that drove us to write our new book ‘NHS For Sale – Myths, Lies and Deception’.

Our book tackles the big lie that was necessary to justify sweeping changes - that the NHS was a poor service and was letting patients down while costing too much money, hopelessly ‘inefficient and unaffordable’. In fact the NHS is one of the most cost effective health services in the world.

The book destroys the myth that the private sector delivers better and cheaper care than the public sector. And it evidences how, contrary to their increasingly strident claims, the government’s actions are resulting in the privatisation of the NHS.

It argues that far from giving GPs the power, the Act means they now have less money, more responsibility and all of the blame. Contrary to what Lansley promised, patients and communities now have less choice and voice, and indeed doctors and patients are all worse off as a result of the ‘reforms’. The Act has resulted in more bureaucracy, higher costs, more waste and less transparency in the NHS.

It dissects claims about government funding of the NHS and shows them to be a sham, detailing the cuts and closures that have taken place.

The market has no place in delivering health care, squandering scarce money and clinical time and destabilising those vital NHS services that the private sector has no interest in delivering.

It is time to abolish the ‘purchaser provider split’ which divides the NHS into those that hold the purse strings and those who provide the healthcare - and allows private firms to muscle in on both sides of the split. This split was introduced under Thatcher and labelled ‘a failed experiment’ by the Health Select Committee.

We hope that as many as possible will read it before they cast their vote on May 7th. After 5 years of lies and cover ups voters need the full facts to allow them to make up their minds about the Coalition record on the NHS. We intend that this book will come to their aid.

Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS here to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter. Thank you. 

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