The NHS is under real threat of terminal privatisation by Christmas, and the impact of the Health and Care Bill 2021-22 is likely to be very significant. The Bill has had its second reading and been voted through by the expected Conservative and Unionist Party majority.
Although this “reform” (privatisation) of the NHS is already before parliament, it is attracting practically no attention in the media at present. That is an abysmal, but totally expected, dereliction of duty by the UK mainstream media.
This “under the radar” passage is well timed with Covid taking front of stage, and it suits the government’s agenda very well. There will be no significant protests because far too few people are aware of what is happening.
It is likely that only the House of Lords stands between the Bill and the disaster that it represents for public health services as we know them.
What do we mean by “privatising the NHS”? (aka Selling off the NHS)
Firstly, privatisation in the context of the NHS means the government would dissolve its obligation to provide significant healthcare. That opens the way for private providers to offer their services, and charge us accordingly.
That, of course, would be political suicide. Therefore the government will continue to fund a certain level of services. The public would be offered insurance schemes that would pay for higher care levels not paid for by government. Essentially, that is the USA model, where Medicare provides some semblance of a safety net for the poorest members of society.
It is the next level up, those with greater earning power but who cannot afford insurance, who are bankrupted and lose their homes when family members need hospitalisation.
What’s so bad about privatisation as long as services are maintained?
Privatisation of public services means putting profits ahead of care levels. It is that simple. Private providers can only survive if a profit stream is in place. Poor service almost always follows on from privatisation, such as Southern Water pouring raw sewage directly into streams, watercourses, and the sea – or any one of the foreign rail transport providers that now run our rail network.
What is happening now?
In Feb 2021, it caused a furore when 48 GP practices were sold to US giant insurance provider Centene, or rather to its UK subsidiary Operose. These GP practices were owned at the time by another company, AT Medics Ltd, whose directors received handsome financial rewards for the transaction. Centene has an unsavoury record in the USA. Its business model involves reducing care to the very minimum in order to maximize profits. Read more here.
Timothy Ferris, the CEO of a leading US healthcare organization, was appointed NHS England’s Director of Transformation in March. Centene’s UK Chief Executive Officer, Samantha Jones, has entered UK government as expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care delivery. That means she is effectively already inside 10 Downing Street.
What this means is that private providers are now driving NHS transformation. The Bill in Parliament is constructing the framework to enable them to deploy privatised services just as the Conservative and Unionist Party has long desired.
What are the main provisions that would lead to privatisation?
We will return to this topic in ore depth, but here are some headline provisions:
The Government will no longer be obliged to provide health care as we know it today.
The Secretary of State for Health can make up the rules as he/she goes along, deciding what services will and will not be provided – and by whom.
Private health providers will sit on the boards of the country’s health authorities and have a say in how care is provided, and by whom.
Contracts will not need to go through the standard procurement best practices framework and no supervision of awards is required.
More to follow…