The NHS is on the brink of extinction – we need to shout about it

The government is legally destroying the NHS, a national institution and all by design. Only because of our apathy is this taking place, we as a nation appear to be more interested in ice skating celebs, dancing dogs and taking out help to buy and payday loans. An institution paid for with our families taxes is being dismantled, we have a choice to make and we need to make it sooner rather than later. Courtesy of The Guardian:

In school, I remember being part of a play called The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The plot revolved around a king who was tricked into believing that he was wearing a special outfit when, in fact, he wore nothing at all. His sycophants complimented him for his wonderful choice of clothing, and on the street scared commoners praised the invisible suit until an innocent little kid screamed: “Look, the Emperor has no clothes!”

The one loud proclamation sent the entire town into shock. However, since it was the truth, nobody could deny it any more. And eventually, the Emperor came back to his senses.

The NHS desperately needs that kid. Someone who could stand up and shout: “Look! The NHS is at the brink of extinction. And David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt are facilitating its demise on the back of an unmandated NHS Act 2013!”

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I’ve got 35 years experience of working in the NHS, from a junior doctor to a GP, and then chair of a Primary Care Trust and now deputy chair of the BMA council. This has taught me that most things can be made to work – even across organisational and local authority boundaries – if you have the right working relationships which develop over time through honesty, openness and trust.

The way this NHS is being managed by Hunt and the government is a stunning example of how not to do things. The roadmap of their policies is leading to the complete privatisation of the NHS, a process that has deep roots in Thatcherite ideology.

Aneurin Bevan once said: “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of a lack of means.” The new NHS Act has not just repealed society’s contract with the health service, but it has made the NHS a repository of privateers with the mindset of venture capitalists.

For the entire length of 2013, the NHS came under relentless attack on grounds of “quality” by politicians and the right-wing press, driving the privatisation agenda.

I believe it will be a completely different healthcare system in five years time – one which will be much worse in terms of access, equity, health outcomes and cost.

We are inexorably moving toward a system ruled by bogus choice, competition, market forces and diversity of suppliers. By opening every NHS corner to “any qualified provider”, the whole service can be taken over by private companies, with a few token charities and mutuals. NHS hospitals, faced with the consequences of cherry-picking by private consortia, risk bankruptcy when left to deal only with complex cases.

In the past two years, £11bn worth of our NHS has been put up for sale, while 35,000 staff have been axed, including 5,600 nurses. Half of our 600 ambulance stations are earmarked for closure. One-third of NHS walk-in centres have been closed and 10% of A&E units have been shut. Waiting lists for operations are at their longest in years as hospitals are consumed by the crisis in A&E.

The morale of the NHS family is at rock bottom. Their pay has been frozen for two years under the coalition, and they have been forced to accept a major downgrading of their pension benefits. Freezing and squeezing pay is heaping financial misery on more than one million NHS workers.

The NHS will just be a logo; a most cherished institution reduced from being the main provider of health services in England with one of the biggest workforces in the world, to a US-style insurance scheme, divorced from the delivery of care. Fewer treatments will be available to people as cuts start to bite, with wealthier people able to “top up” treatments. It’s not just a postcode lottery – it’s also a tax code lottery.

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Patients are being denied prompt hip or cataract operations – and the list of hard-to-get services will grow and grow, reducing the NHS to a skeleton. Money that could be spent on patient care is being spent on unnecessary bureaucracy, debt interest and dividends. Meanwhile, Hunt blames individual cash-strapped trusts for making “bad choices”.

Since 2012’s Health and Social Care Act scrapped the government’s duty to secure a comprehensive health service, Hunt is now legally – if not morally – able to wash his hands of the entire mess – a situation that must be reversed urgently, and democratic accountability restored.

We need to fight for universal healthcare as a basic human right, regardless of whether we live in flourishing suburbs or inner-city deprived areas. Passionate supporters of the NHS and ordinary people alike must speak out about their discontent with the government’s reforms, just as the kid did to avoid further embarrassment to a narcissistic Emperor and a nation that would have suffered the consequences of self-indulgent behaviour.

The time has come to show that the NHS is not for sale.

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One thought on “The NHS is on the brink of extinction – we need to shout about it

  1. Pingback: The NHS is on the brink of extinction – we need to shout about it | Healthcare Professionals Network | Guardian Professional « Dr Alf's Blog

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