Letter published in today’s Journal:
Tomorrow tens of thousands will gather to protest outside the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester in support of the NHS.
Over 500 of us from the “desolate” North East People’s Assembly will be joining People’s Assembly supporters from the length and breadth of the country in a mass demonstration of support for our NHS as a public service based on the principles of universality and solidarity.
This original vision of the NHS is being systematically destroyed by the changes brought in by the Health and Social Care Act: a piece of legislation opposed by all health care professional bodies working within the NHS.
Few, however, will be aware of the extent to which the NHS is now being privatised.
Many Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) board members and most GPs, as well as the general public, still have little idea what a CCG actually does and how it is intended to operate within the new system ushered in by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s ‘reforms’.
This confusion has been produced deliberately by the government to avoid the history, purpose and nature of CCGs from becoming publicly known, because the CCGs are the key mechanism for the final stage of the intended privatisation of the NHS.
The mechanism is structured in such a way as to leave the financial and legal risks attached to any mismatch between income and expenditure with the CCG – with the potential to become insolvent.
This type of financial mechanism is effectively an insurance scheme and 90% of NHS funding will not now directly fund health care provision. It will go to the CCGs to contract out – to private and other providers.
The system is designed to work on a similar basis to the US private health insurance system.
CCG boards are currently being told to tender out as much of their ‘pooled budgets’ as possible on contracts of at least the minimum five years, which is what outsourcing companies require to make their businesses sufficiently profitable – many costs are associated with starting a contract, and handing it over.
If the CCG tries to explicitly appoint NHS providers to protect them from closure or privatisation, they will find would-be private sector bidders will solicit the health sector regulator Monitor to overturn the service contract and force a tender under competition law rules.
The difference in cost between the two systems is likely to be huge – the traditional NHS system we have abandoned had administration costs below 5%, whereas the new system is likely to take up to 30% of its budget. That is a waste of a quarter of the NHS budget!
The Tory-led coalition government is misleading us and locking the NHS into the failed US healthcare model.
They tell us they must save money, but are increasing the drain on the NHS budget to create more jobs in the accounting, insurance and competition law fields – whilst international data suggests this course of action could ultimately increase deaths among babies by nearly 50%!
We hope the demonstration tomorrow will draw the attention to the need to stop the privatisation of our health and social care services before unscrambling the contracts involved becomes impossible for any new government wishing to rescue our NHS.
Dr Michael Lloyd MA (Cantab) Econ.
Tony Dowling, chair North East People’s Assembly
Matthew Giles, Labour Party
Joan Hewitt, poet & NHS patient
Mark Husmann, lecturer
Jan Short, pensioner
Alex Snowdon, Coalition of Resistance – Tyne & Wear
Mark Tyers, Gateshead Unison Health branch (personal capacity)