The government’s management of the NHS has been disastrous. The cost of its increasing bureaucracy introduced in the ‘80’s runs into billions of pounds including fragmenting county health authorities’ only to establish them again recently. These changes, opposed by all the professional and union bodies, have been rushed through, ignoring all the results of “consultation”.
The process of privatisation was started by the Conservatives in the 90’s and then taken up with gusto by Labour culminating in an orgy of PFI deals where private companies were paid billions of public money in what amounts to a sale and lease back scheme that was a spectacularly bad deal for the tax payer, leaving us with assets worth around £11Bn that we’re paying back around £80Bn on for the next 20 years.
When they regained power the Conservatives introduced the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 which effectively removed the government’s duty to provide a free, comprehensive health service and legislated that all services should be open to private tender. This threw the door to privatisation of the NHS wide open. We’re now faced with the prospect of yet anther re-organisation which, under the Conservatives, can only mean more misery for patients and workers alike.
The Conservatives have overseen contracts to private health providers worth billions. You only have to look at the amount of cronyism we have seen during the pandemic for proof of that. Many people argue that having private contractors within the NHS is not a problem. But no private company operates on a charitable basis. They are in it for profit, and if those services were being provided from within the NHS (as they used to be) that profit wouldn’t exist. The money would instead go towards providing more and better services.
Many of these contracts have gone to companies with a chequered past in terms of performance, including Circle Health who walked away from the only privately run NHS hospital because there wasn’t enough profit in it. It also has to be noted that many of the firms being offered contracts are significant donors to the Conservative Party. Virgin are also now heavily involved with the NHS and Conservative health ministers regularly visit the USA to talk to health providers there.
Boris Johnson of course claims that there will be no post-Brexit sell-off of the NHS to American health companies, but he would say that wouldn’t he? The NHS is one of the last public service institutions in this country, employing millions of people and potentially worth billions to private investors. As we’ve seen in the USA, there’s plenty of money in misery and people are prepared to sell everything they have to be without pain or maybe live a few years longer.
Now the UK has left the EU, there will be even more incentive for the government to sell portions of the health service to private US firms as we will be so desperate for foreign trade. It’s well known that these US firms are keen to get their hands on the NHS as one of the last remaining publicly owned assets, but they will only be interested in the lucrative areas. Indeed the current head of NHS England Simon Stevens used to work for one of the largest private health providers in the USA.
The Green Party is the only party to propose decentralised healthcare responsibility devolved to local government, with national guidelines ensuring minimum service levels preventing post code lotteries.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has been instrumental in bringing in the NHS reinstatement bill which seeks to end all privatisation and will bring the NHS fully back into public ownership.
We would re-negotiate PFI deals and end them early where we can, the reduce costs to the NHS and take back public assets being held by private companies.
We will always fight to keep the health service free, abolish prescription charges, re-introduce free eye tests and NHS dentistry treatment for all, and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available.
We are also calling for a radical overhaul and full funding for social care so that it is available to all. We should not be forcing our older population to plunder their life savings simply to have a safe place to live. This is especially important for future generations who may not have healthy pension pots and savings to call on in their later years.