It seems to me that the Conservatives are trying to break the NHS by driving it into debt and reducing the workforce whilst privatising it gradually by the back door with as little publicity as possible.
Of course they don’t want to be seen to be destroying the health service because that would be politically unpopular. But it is difficult to break the NHS without people realising what you’re doing.
The first thing they did was to decimate community health care and council services. The people served by these services didn’t go away or stop requiring treatment therefore the burden of treating these people was dumped on the NHS causing already overstretched services to be swamped and budgets to become overspent.
Now Mr Hunt is trying to impose a contract on the junior doctors which will designate weekends as normal working days. The modest pay increase included in the new contract will be more than offset by the reduction in overtime payments under the new contract, so it’s actually a pay cut.
But for the junior doctors it is not about pay, it is about the drive to fully staffed operation of NHS hospitals seven days a week with no extra staff and no extra funding. And Mr Hunt says that he isn’t trying to make doctors work longer hours, errr …. something doesn’t seem to add up there.
The drive to implement a seven day NHS is based on flawed statistics which misrepresent the real situation. The NHS already works seven days a week. Routine clinics and services are only run during the week but all the departments and services which are needed are staffed during the weekend.
The much quoted statistic about you being more likely to die if admitted at the weekend than if admitted during the week is deliberately misleading. Many people are admitted during the week for a variety of reasons, most of which are the result of routine hospital visits. However the routine services are not run at weekends so if you are admitted at the weekend it is more likely to be the result of an emergency.
People who are admitted as the result of an emergency visit are likely to have more serious problems than those admitted as a result of a routine visit and I would suggest that this is more likely to be the cause of the difference in outcome rather than any deficiency in the care at the weekend.
So why are the Conservatives and in particular Mr Hunt trying to break the NHS?
Is there perhaps some hidden agenda at work here?
Well in 2005 Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book, ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party‘. If we look at the chapter on health we see that the author said on page 78 – “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain”.
I have read a copy of the book although I cannot post any more than a brief excerpt here due to copyright concerns. It used to be widely available on the web but is disappearing fast as copies available on websites are mysteriously vanishing. However it is still available in some places.
This book which was co-authored by Jeremy Hunt advocates the de-nationalisation of the NHS and the introduction of an American style insurance scheme were patients pay into their individual pots and decide how to spend it. This gives grave cause for concern given that Jeremy Hunt is now in charge of the NHS.
Having a seven day NHS is not possible without adequate resources and staff, but if the real reason you’re doing it is in order to break the NHS so you can introduce privatisation as a remedy then it makes perfect sense!