By Lucette Davies
Caroline Ansell has finally sent me an answer to my queries about how the Health and Care Bill could solve any of the major crises in our NHS. In true Caroline style it was sent after the horse has bolted or rather after the bill has been passed. But although she may have felt that now there was nothing we can do about it, I would beg to differ.
The Health and Care Act is a massive and costly restructuring of the NHS which may be far harder to implement than it was to bring into legislation. There are various aspects of this Act which are still ambiguous and give us room for effective campaigning.
To start with we need to understand that our NHS has undergone enormous restructuring particularly since 2012, most of which the public have been kept in the dark about. The argument that no government would ever do away with the NHS should really read no government would ever tell us they are doing away with the NHS.
For right now many people are having to pay for NHS services that they used to get for free. Many people are using private medicine as they can no longer tolerate the waiting lists for NHS treatment. Even before the pandemic waiting lists stood at 4.4 m.
NHS staff have been on wage stagnation, they are exhausted, overworked and demoralised. Hospital buildings are in desperate need of repair, GP surgeries are overstretched and NHS dentistry is fast becoming assigned to history books.
They claim this Act will encourage greater integration between services. Local Boards to determine service provision in a given area are being set up. These Boards will have members from the private and public sector. Caroline’s reply assures me that everyone on these Boards will be guided by the NHS constitution.
But, it is hard to believe the private sector would be interested in becoming involved if this were true. Especially as company directors are legally obliged to ensure that everything is done to maximise growth in profits for their company.
Some may claim they don’t mind who provides their treatment as long as it is free at the point of need. But we should mind because introducing private health providers into the NHS has been financially wasteful. It has made the service increasingly inefficient and valuable funding gets squandered away on profits. Private healthcare will also seek to lower wages and working conditions in order to grow profit.
Caroline’s response also claimed this Act gave the NHS what it was asking for. But that does not seem to be the view of many NHS professionals. Particularly as the Act doesn’t require the government to take sufficient steps to tackle staffing shortfalls.
Where this Act will leave our NHS when fully implemented is still uncertain. There is still a lot of room for manoeuver and it is essential as many of us as possible get out there campaigning and fighting for what we know is right. They can try to fob us off with delayed responses that are largely more spin than you would see on a roulette table. But we know we need universal healthcare for all. Let’s make sure we get it. Please take a look at this statement about the Act before you believe the spin.