Tuesday 20 January 2015
Mutually Assured Destruction:
Why Hinchinbrooke means the law must change
The withdrawal of Circle from the management of Hinchinbrooke Hospital is not an isolated example. It is an early symptom of the failure of the NHS and there will be more unless the current incremental destruction of the NHS is stopped by changing the law. The worst thing to do is nothing and there is very little time to act.
This is the argument of the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill, Lord David Owen’s solution to reversing the changes of the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA). Writing in the Guardian today, Lord Owen exposes the argument for ‘mutual’ management of NHS organisations by commercial interests such as Circle and what remains of the public service for what it truly is: a misapplication of principles which may well work in areas like retail or manufacturing but which simply cannot work in providing comprehensive healthcare. Far from generating mutual commitment and the best possible outcomes for the public, these schemes are merely the mechanism by which pro-market, pro-privatisation parties can dismantle the NHS as a unified, comprehensive public service.
The only way to stop this is to change the law. By ‘de-coupling’ the responsibility of the Minister for Health for the NHS, and instead only insisting ministerial duty is confined to ‘promoting’ healthcare, the HSCA ensured there was no ultimate parliamentary responsibility for the NHS. It also further widened the gap between those providing the care and those paying for it, and made it almost impossible for existing NHS services to be regarded as the preferred one: providers are obliged to put services out to tender. All of which guarantees fragmentation and a carving off of the most lucrative sections of the NHS to private providers, again at the cost of undermining comprehensive and equitable care for all.
Far from being yet another, top-down, centralised imposition of change, the NHS Reinstatement Bill seeks to stop then repair the damage already done and restore the NHS for what it is admired globally as being: the fairest way of allocating health resources for the public so that all can be confident they are going to get the best available treatment, and none have to face the nightmare of being excluded because they live in the wrong area, or can’t find the money for private healthcare.
Professor Allyson Pollock is Professor of Public Health Research and Policy at Queen Mary College, University of London, and is a passionate supporter of the Campaign:
“What Circle have done at Hinchinbrooke betrays the true agenda for the NHS under existing legislation: a less comprehensive, less effective and less accountable service which is increasingly in the hands of private providers. Who in the end always have the option of shrugging their shoulders and walking away, leaving the taxpayer to find the solution. The solution is apparent now. We have to stop this or it will become more common, and our NHS will continue to fragment. The Reinstatement Bill has to become law, and quickly.”[Ends]
The Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill is a non-partisan campaign and has a wide range of support across the political spectrum. It encourages the public to contact prospective parliamentary candidates in their constituency, determine their views on the Reinstatement Bill, and gain their support for it wherever possible.