Monday, 10 December 2012

NHS Reform

'Any qualified provider . . '


Aneurin Bevan 1897-1960
http://commons.wikimedia.org

We were promised no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS by David Cameron before the 2010 election. Instead we got the Health and Social Care Act which allows for privately owned hospitals delivering NHS services and the commissioning of health services by GP commissioning groups (Clinical Commissioning Groups - CCGs) from ‘any qualified provider’ ie NHS or private providers.

Why should we care as long as the treatment is fast, speedy and free at the point of delivery, especially if it will save the taxpayer money? Especially when there are so many stories in the news about the failure of NHS healthcare?


 We attended a meeting in Canterbury on 4th December organised by KONP (Keep Our NHS Public). The following points were made:
·        a private firm’s first duty is to their shareholders. They are likely therefore to seek involvement in areas where profit will be easiest to secure, leaving the more complicated, expensive and therefore less profitable areas to the NHS, which then appears uneconomic in comparison.
·        huge private companies/multinationals (look at supermarkets, for example) often take on contracts at a loss, eliminate the competition and then bump up the prices when that competition has disappeared. The same process could easily happen in the NHS with unprofitable services, whether NHS or private, disappearing altogether and the remaining private services escalating in price. Taxpayers would then have to foot the bill with no power to do anything about it.
·        the record of privatised formerly publicly owned services, such as the energy providers and the rail franchises, doesn’t inspire confidence. The stories we have heard about private care for the elderly or those with special needs also serve as a warning.
·        how are you going to feel when GPs sell their practices and walk off with millions as happened recently (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/09/healthcare-sell-off-gps News)?  Should an individual’s distress be a profit-making opportunity?
·        the NHS provides better, more secure working conditions for employees than private providers.
So what can we do to fight the creeping privatisation of the NHS which is underway?
·        The organisation 38 Degrees has had lawyers draw up amendments to the constitution of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which would require them to include new wording promising to protect the NHS, without breaking the new laws brought in by the government. We should lobby them to adopt these amendments. They are keen to have some public involvement, and have established "Friends" organisations, which we could all join. The Canterbury group is C4G, and their contact point is c4.ccg@nhs.net
·        Patient Participation Groups All GP practices must have one of these, so go on to their website and find out how to join. It would be good for more than one KONP supporter to join; these have been very traditional bodies, with very little awareness of the wider threats to the NHS. It is difficult for one person to start to challenge that.
·        East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust  This is the body covering all hospitals in our area, and is a membership organisation, which we can all join. Contact: www.ekhuft.nhs.uk 
·        Kent Community Health NHS Trust  This provides community health services and is in the process of becoming a Foundation Trust. It is keen for as many people as possible to become members.  Contact: kcht.cct@nhs.net
·        Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Trust provides mental health services and is also a membership body we can join. Contact: www.kmpt.nhs.uk
  • Health Watch This is the new "public voice" in the NHS, replacing the local involvement networks (LINK). Kent CC is responsible for running them, and they become effective in March 2013. Contact on www.kent.gov.uk
East Kent KONP has already organised events to raise public awareness of what is happening to the NHS. They held one outside Virgin Travel at Debenhams in Canterbury on 1st December, as the Virgin group is now moving into healthcare. More are planned.
Keep an eye on their website and facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/events/155185447959678/