"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Private money for public health?

I try not to write about LibDems because I regard them as deluded human shields. However, it is interesting to read this blog from the equalities minister the LibDem MP Lynne Featherstone has cottoned to the fact that Lansley's changes to the NHS will be damaging. Here's her blog post in full (2 August 2010):
Andrew Lansley, according to this morning’s Guardian, is removing the cap on NHS hospitals making money from private health provision.
Concerns have been raised as to whether this will create a two-tier system of health provision and reversion to longer waiting times for NHS patients with private patients jumping the queue.
If those concerns could be addressed – would it be a good thing to reap the profit for the NHS given that it is NHS training that our doctors and consultants get?  If private money could be poured into the NHS rather than watch those profits go to private providers would that be a good way to address the looming funding gap (with the caveats as above) or not?
Please Lynne read the NHS White Paper. Lansley's plans are that private patients will be allowed to use NHS facilities - the OFT will use competition law to force (former NHS) social enterprise hospitals to open access to private companies to their facilities. Do you really think that a private patient will wait in a queue behind NHS patients? Of course not.

OK time for an anecdote. In the early 90s a friend, who I shared a house with as a student, was diagnosed with cancer. He was a trainee accountant and his company had paid for health insurance for him, so he was entitled to private treatment. In actual fact he was treated by an NHS consultant doing private work in his spare time in a private hospital. The doctor decided that my friend needed an MRI scan. In those days MRI machines were so expensive that a single  hospital could not afford to fund one, so five local hospitals funded a machine. The MRI machine was installed in a container lorry and driven around the area spending a few days at each hospital. My friend's doctor booked him for the scan and to this day I remember the look of horror on my friend's face as he describe to me the disgraceful scene. He told me how he was taken by private ambulance to the hospital, put in a wheelchair and taken to the MRI lorry. There was a long queue of NHS patients: beds, people in wheel chairs, the walking wounded on chairs. He was wheeled straight to the front of the queue and had his scan. He was mortified. That is what private healthcare is all about.

Lynne, I am glad that you have recognised that there is a problem, but there is no "clever thinking" way out of this. The fact is Lansley's plans are deliberately to create a two tier system that will mean that the poor will be treated like shit. Please think over this issue some more, and then come to the right decision that Lansley truly is a monster and not someone who you should be in coalition with. Please kill these plans before they do real damage.

1 comment: