The fundamental problem of private companies running NHS services
Coincidentally I write this post in the same week as Prime Minster Theresa May slammed private developers in her speech on the UK property crisis stating, “The bonuses paid to the heads of some of our biggest property developers are based not on the number of homes they build but on their profits.”
On hearing her speech, I was left to wonder why it is that she and Jeremy Hunt believe the heads of private health conglomerates when running health services in the UK, will be any less focussed their own profits and bonuses, and more inclined to care about the greater good and indeed the health needs of individual people in the UK.
The truth is they won’t be, and the current patient outcome focussed NHS, broken into parts and managed by private companies will have other goals to prioritise, such as returns for their investors and executive bonuses.
NHS privatisation means so many different things, and the Government would have us focus on one aspect of it, the nice media friendly part, where a number of NHS patients are lucky enough to have their waiting times reduced, by going to private hospitals for fairly routine operations. The truth is though, that is a tiny part of NHS privatisation, indeed we are now facing the wholesale running of entire services for the NHS by private, profit driven companies.
Privatisation is the right answer to the wrong question. It is the answer to how can we make the Government remote from the responsibility of the health of individuals in the UK? It’s also the answer to how we can reduce the services expected to be available on the NHS and in the long-term shift the cost from the treasury to the individual? It is not however, the answer to how we improve the efficiency of the health service, keep it patient outcome focussed, and keep it free at the point of care for everyone.
Efficiency and cost savings are often given as the main reason for private companies taking over services previously run by the NHS. This is seldom the case however, as it might well be cheaper, but often it’s not a like for like service, and the staff taken on after the existing staff transfer from the NHS can be on vastly inferior contracts to their colleagues. What this in turn then does is begin a race to the bottom, in terms of the experience and calibre of the staff that our health service can recruit and also retain.
Away from the NHS, we don’t have to look far to see that privatisation does not always provide the answers to failing public sector organisations. The railways in the UK were run down for many years, before privatisation was touted as the answer. Today we look across the English Channel with envy, at the state run, high-speed rail networks such as the SNCF in France and Deutsche Bahn (DB) in Germany. Railways in which their respect countries are rightly very proud, but also that cost a great deal less to use than our vastly inferior network here in the UK.
Would the Government real dare to fully privatise the NHS?
I often hear it argued that government would never try and break up the NHS, that people would revolt, but that’s a very dangerous assumption to make. Politicians could never be that direct about their intentions of breaking up our NHS, or indeed any nationalised organisation.
Their understanding of that was demonstrated a long time ago in the leaked Ridley Report, Mrs Thatcher’s playbook for taking on the nationalised organisations in which her Conservative colleagues stated, “Denationalisation should not be attempted by frontal attack, but by a policy of preparation for preparation for return to the private sector by stealth.” – https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/110795
Backdoor NHS privatisation, ACOs and their danger to the NHS
I’ve written previously on backdoor NHS privatisation and ACOs, however if you’re looking for an external source for more information, the article linked here carried on politics.co.uk is by Dr Graham Winyard, he is a former medical director of the NHS in England and also Deputy Chief Medical Officer –
Finally, I have organised a petition on the Parliament petition website calling on the government to stop the privatisation of NHS services, please click on the link below to view the petition live and lend your support.