Following the completion of the wholesale privatisation of the NHS with the passing of S275 regulation now being debated in House of Lords, the spectre of charging patients for NHS services looms sharply!
As many commentators have stated, national insurance contribution increases as well as charging for the provision of NHS healthcare will need to be introduced within the next 10 years, if not sooner.
Today’s (15th April) Daily Telegraph reports that the chair of NHS England has warned that “any future government will have to consider charging people to use the NHS unless Britain’s economy strengthens.”
The Telegraph news item says that:
“Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of the body which is in charge of almost £100bn of expenditure, has indicated he would not support such a move because that fact that the NHS is free is its “defining value”.
It is not just a health service, it is a “social support system”, Professor Grant has claimed.”
Professor Grant is at the centre of the government’s decision to remove political control of the NHS, and introduce private healthcare companies into the provision of healthcare services on behalf of the NHS. As chair of NHS England, he is quoted as speaking to the Financial Times and saying that a “complete rethinking” was needed about the ways in which care was provided. This includes the shrinking of hospitals and providing services in the community to increase productivity.
Interestingly, not on the basis of the best form of healthcare!
Last year the think tank, Institute of Fiscal studies said that the austerity measures facing the NHS over the next decade would require the government to review the free services provided as well as taxation levels.
Further pressure on NHS resources is caused by the political decision to cut £20 billion from the Healthcare budget; although the government claim it is not a cut but efficiency savings.
The decision to establish NHS England was controversial because if removed responsibility of daily operation from the Health Secretary, Professor Grant recognised; although the government claim no such thing!
Yesterday, Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, responded to figures showing more patients are waiting over four hours at A&E’s across the country.
In a press release he said:
“We have repeatedly warned Jeremy Hunt about the intense pressures on A&E and urged him to get a grip. His failure to face up to this problem cannot continue.
The NHS in England has missed the A&E target in almost every week that this Secretary of State has been in post and last week hit a new low.
England's A&Es struggled in a way not seen since the bad old days of the mid-1990s. Thousands of patients were left waiting hours on end to be seen. In some hospitals, one in three people waited more than four hours.
There are two principal causes of this increasing chaos. First, hospitals are continuing to make severe cuts to front-line staffing levels, with many operating below recommended staffing levels. Second, deep cuts to council care budgets mean patients can't be discharged from hospital beds. This has a knock-on effect right through the hospital. With no free beds on the wards, A&E staff can't admit patients and, with A&E full, paramedics can't hand over patients. So we see long queues of ambulances outside hospitals as the pressure backs up right through the system.
These problems are well-known but they have been neglected as, for months, the NHS has been distracted by the biggest-ever top-down re-organisation. Standards of care are deteriorating across the country as the NHS is dragged down by David Cameron's toxic mix of cuts and re-organisation. Almost 5000 nursing posts have been lost since David Cameron entered Downing Street.
Ministers must urgently develop a plan to bring all A&Es in England back up to national standards. They must stop the job cuts and ensure there are enough staff on the ground across the NHS to provide safe care."
Source: Labour Party / Daily Telegraph