The NHS : Facts That You Didn’t Know – Shame On You!
By Graham Vanbergen – At the 2001 census, the population of Great Britain stood at 58,780, 000 persons. By the next census in 2011 the population had risen to 62,300,000 – a rise of 3,520,000 or about 6 percent. This means the population is rising by nearly 30,000 per month, every month.
The population of Britain is projected to reach 70 million by 2027 and nearly 75 million by 2039. All these figures are produced by the Office for National Statistics.
In the UK in 1901 life expectancy at birth was around 45 for men and 49 for women. In 2007 the number of people in Britain aged over 65 outnumbered the number of people under 16 for the first time. In 2012 the number of over 65’s and older in the UK surpassed 10 million for the first time. It does not a genius to work out that providing healthcare to a changing demographic is going to require some thought.
In 2013 Sir David Nicolson, Chief executive of NHS England did some thinking and said the NHS would not be able to survive in its current form and problems could escalate to the point where anyone who can afford it will choose to go private. He also said “I don’t think the wheels are going to fall off tomorrow. But we’ll see a position where people have to reduce the number of nurses on the wards and have to reduce the drugs that we give to people. I can see all of those things happening unless we embrace this change.”
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The change he was referring to was transformational investment by the government in the NHS or it would face a “managed decline” with rationing of treatment, longer waiting times, fewer nurses and poorer care. The government, in its infinite wisdom, with an ideology that is hell-bent on privatising the service decided to go with the option of ‘managed decline.’
The result is:
The proportion of patients being seen within the four-hour limit in A&E is the lowest for 13 years
66 A&E/Maternity wards have already been closed
19 more hospitals are to be closed
14,966 NHS beds have been closed
51 more NHS ‘walk-in centres are to be closed
Capacity of the NHS already cut by 5.5 million
Capacity of the NHS to be cut by a further 3 million
NHS facing £650m premises tax hike in April
£22billion of NHS ‘efficiency savings’ on the way.
All this is the backdrop of an ageing population and one that is increasing at the rate of 30,000 a month.
In 2013, the NHS achieved a new milestone. More than 1 billion prescription items were dispensed in a year – or 1,900 a minute and rising at a rate of over 6 million a year, based on population growth alone. That is nearly 17 prescriptions for every man, woman and child living in Britain each year.
Thanks to funding pressures though, “patients will be restricted to discussing only one ailment per visit to the doctor”. It’s all a far cry from the “new and highly responsive GP service” promised by the Tony Blair government, under whom everyone was supposed to be able to arrange a GP appointment within 48 hours.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has actually blamed overcrowding on people going to A&E with so called trivial complaints, but the real fault lies with cuts to social care budgets that are “leading to almost one million fewer people now getting social care”. What this does is force hospitals to keep patients longer than necessary, putting even more strain on them and their available services.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown increased the percentage of GDP spent on health from 6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2009, this was still below the European average of 10.1%.
Today, Britain lies 19th out of 35 in the OECD countries of spend per head on healthcare but about half way in global terms. Britain spends very approximately one third per capita that America does on healthcare even though America has a fully privatised insurance backed system. The UK lies 20th in the league of life expectancy, America by contrast, spending more than two and half times more than Britain, lies 31st.
One fact about America’s failing healthcare system is quite telling. America is the only modern country in the world that has just recorded a decline in life expectancy in the white male population.
The evidence for the ‘managed decline’ of the NHS to be privatised is now staring us in the face.
The Department of Health own figures show that the amount of its funding that has gone to “independent sector providers” has more than doubled from £4.1bn in 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, to £8.7bn in 2015-16.
“This group of people (Care Commissioning Groups) are taking decisions which are destabilising the future of our local hospital and could lead to NHS services being privatised,” the local Labour MP Rosie Cooper said recently about the Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust.
This is one simple example of a creeping colonisation of the NHS by organisations such as tax exile Richard Branson’s Virgin Care amongst many edging their way in.
The financial squeeze imposed upon the NHS by government is deliberate. It is coupled with private firms ability to undercut NHS providers and put an obligation on CCGs by the coalition’s shakeup of the NHS in 2012. These imposed tension strings mean increased outsourcing is inevitable – it does not mean that the awarding to private healthcare raises the quality of service or outcomes at all. That being the case, what’s the point other than to profit from it and if the American model is anything to go by, we are looking at an emerging system of healthcare apartheid.
Sir David Nicolson also said: “My worry is that if it gets worse, before you know it you get to a place where only a minority of the people support it and then people who can afford to will go elsewhere for their healthcare. In those circumstances the question of how sustainable the NHS is becomes a much more difficult one to deal with. That’s my worry.”
Sir David’s worries are well founded. Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, who is no stranger to the world of corporate lobbying, had committed to debating the CETA trade deal on the main floor of the House of Commons. But he managed to bury this long awaited session to a House of Commons committee room on Monday 6 February: the same time as the Brexit Bill vote.
It’s not surprising the trade minister was so keen to sneak this deal past MPs. CETA challenges our already flawed democratic system by handing over more power to multinational corporations through the Investment Court System. This has replaced the notorious Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism in EU investment negotiations, and can force governments to compensate corporations over public interest policies that threaten their profits, bypassing national legal systems and courts, and hugely undermining the ability of MPs to legislate on vital matters of public interest such as the NHS.
In addition, CETA’s negotiators have accepted demands from industry to liberalise (open up markets) and privatise public services, like the NHS, through ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ mechanisms. These serve to lock the terms of the agreement and only allow further liberalisation and prohibit any reversals – even when past decisions have turned out to be failures. The collapse of the first ever fully privatised hospital in Britain, Hitchinbrooke, failed because there was not enough profit in it, the service delivery collapsed to such an extent the government had to step in. (Read:”Waste of money” and “poor care” – NHS privatisation failures exposed across the East of England).
One other small matter the current government is conveniently managing is that in Britain access to the NHS is a human right; “If the right to health is considered as a fundamental human right, significant differences in access to health care and the health status of individuals must be seen as violations of the principle of equality” – Implications of a Right to Health – Virginia A. Leary, 1993. Hence, the Human Rights Act will be replaced with a British Bill of Rights and that will exclude access to a fully funded, at the point of use healthcare system for all. The purpose of the Health and Social Care Act of 2012 did just that because it “removed responsibility for the health of citizens from the Secretary of State for Health” which has been the case since the inception of the NHS in 1948.
In the meantime, the government has been accused of “relentless cuts” to the health service that are behind 30,000 excess deaths in 2015. Researchers in two articles published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine “determined that 2015 saw the greatest rise in mortality for almost 50 years in England and Wales.” The researchers concluded that “the evidence points to a major failure of the health system, possibly exacerbated by failings in social care” and warned that without “urgent intervention” from the Government, mortality rates could continue to increase. Just like they have in America.
In other words, the NHS is being managed to destruction through stealth just as Sir David Nicolson predicted.
If President Trump is guilty of anything right now it’s that meaningful news is being buried fast and a huge distraction of domestic issues is evident. Nearly two million Brits are so focused on a foreign leader that they have now signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to Britain be cancelled, a ratio of 2.65 to 1 to the petition to save the NHS. Two weeks ago, thousands (apparently 30,000) of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as it debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. Campaigners are organising marches and protests across the country expected to count a million in numbers overall, the NHS has never garnered such anger or emotion in such quantity – and yet, the NHS directly affects all our lives one way or another.
All this valuable energy being used for what? Trump will be kicked out at the next US election in fours years time. This current government have doubled privatisation and changed the law that protects citizen rights within the NHS in less time. It’s a pity so much energy has not been put into forcing a tiny group of rampantly neoliberal profiteers from destroying one of Britain’s greatest institutions that we should all be rightly proud of and be prepared to fight for.
And for anyone one of you thinking that a delusional narcissistic ageing orange playboy is big enough to beat the US Constitution of 230 years (which has was unable to do with the 7 country Muslim ban because the Constitution prevented it) or important enough to actually protest about whilst ignoring what is going domestically – i.e that the extra deaths of 30,000 UK citizens as a result of a shameless government ideology is remotely acceptable – Shame on you. There are bigger battles to win right here at home – right now.
And – you can do just that. A national demonstration has been organised for Saturday 4th March 2017.