The date is 5 July 1948 and the National Health Service Act 1946 has just come into effect. From this day forward we will forever have a free, effective and worthy National Health Service. From this day forwards if you fall ill you need not worry about the cost of treatment. Or so we thought. Fast forward to April 1 2013 and the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has just committed murder. Alas, after 67 years the NHS has begun to be privatised and is now being cherry-picked by numerous private, for profit health care providers such as Virgin and Serco.
Why is this you may ask? Well, that is the million pound question because; according to the Government these are simply health care ‘reforms’ designed to make the NHS more efficient in all respects. Yet the impenetrable and complex Health and Social Care Act 2012 has, according to many medical professionals begun segmenting this cherished institution into something that mirrors the healthcare system in the United States.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is the most important legislation that has gone through Parliament, probably, this century thus far. As of 1 April 2013, a day now dubbed ‘Black April’ by many, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities will be disbanded. Under the Government’s Section 75 regulations – even after they were revised after huge political pressure – all NHS services must be put out to competitive tender unless the commissioning groups are satisfied a “single provider” can deliver that service.
Put simply, you might be advised to get that healthcare insurance sorted now.
It is forgivable for you to think ‘well hang on, that is not correct because I do not suddenly have to pay for treatment that, prior to April 1 was free of charge’. Well, no, you are correct on this point but as Lucy Reynolds of the British Medical Journal warns that “We’re not going to have a big bang privatisation for the NHS. We’re going to have a very quiet one”. This is understandable because if David Cameron made the announcement that the NHS was now privatised then we would most likely see mass protests as well as his popularity, and the chance of success in the 2015 general elections, become slim at best.
Lucy adds that “Overall, we now have the NHS reorganised in such a way that it can be relaunched as a mixed market, so not just the public health sector service, but also a healthcare industry. The rules are structured in such a way that there will be a gradual transition between those two groups. The public sector will shrink away, and the private sector will grow.” This is a very dangerous shift towards a US-style healthcare system where a countless number of organisations in the private sector are tasked with giving healthcare to the 300 million+ citizens.
Worryingly, if we are truly headed in this direction the following statistics should scare the heebie jeebies out of you; the US Census Bureau reported in 2010 that nearly 50 million citizens, a staggering 16.3% of the total population of the US were uninsured and in a 2004 report the Institute of Medicine warned that “The United States is among the few industrialized nations in the world that does not guarantee access to health care for its population.”, add that to the estimate from an Harvard Study in 2009 that nearly 45,000 excess deaths occurred annually due to a lack of health insurance this paints a truly disastrous picture. Even more disturbing is the estimate from the World Health Organisation that the US spent more on health care per capita ($7,146) and more on health care as a percentage of its GDP (15.2%) than ANY other nation in the world in 2008.
Add a warning from a leading member of a profession not known for overstating a case and we are in real trouble: patients could be “in danger from complications” from a fragmented NHS. Resources will no longer be distributed on the basis of need: the rules of the market now rule supreme. “It’s chaos, really,” says Brian James, until recently chief executive of the Rotherham Foundation Trust.
There is only one conclusion that I and like-minded people, and now possibly yourself, can come to- we are too late to act and now the great NHS sell off has begun…