banner unionsafete

Labour Peer Supports Government Inquiry Into Moving To Pay Per Use NHS

Given that the media has virtually introduced their own voluntary NHS news blackout in relation to what the government is actually doing, and only reporting problems without stating the causes; the general public are being foiled into believing the Tory lies and smokescreen for what they are really doing – abolishing the National Health Service!

But before looking at their current plans for the abolition of the NHS, it is worth looking at the political landscape of the Tory Government.

The Tories are planning to remove statutory sick pay and employers liability to pay sick pay, and force everyone to set up bank savings to use when they are ill!! The National Insurance contributions which every working person has taken from their wages pays for the NHS and Social Security. By law it can only be used for those purposes.
There is £30 billion unspent sitting in the National Insurance fund coffers.

As it can only be spent on NHS and welfare, it is clear that the current financial NHS difficulties are caused deliberately by government policy.

The current financial problems in the NHS are inflicted by the government in order to justify bringing in an American system of healthcare – delivered by profit making private companies and paid for by the public being forced to pay private health insurance.

Last month the Government set up a national exhibition and conference into successful bidding for NHS contracts by  private companies, providing advice and encouragement for those businesses wishing to enter into the NHS private market.

This was sponsored and paid for by the NHS and was held in Birmingham in July.

In the first week of that same month, the Government quietly and surreptitiously announced in the House of Lords rather than the House of Commons; a review into the NHS which will create the biggest political storm, when and if someone notices and the mainstream media actually report it!

The intent was to delay any public scrutiny until their media machine is ready to spin lies about what they are actually doing, along with the willingness of TV and other media to remain silent on this issue as they have done throughout the whole of the NHS privatisation debates in the Commons and the Lords; culminating in the privatisation enabling Health and Social Care Bill which became an Act of Parliament on 27th March 2012. Already the message that the NHS can no longer be afforded has been spouted out by Monitor, in July.

David Cameron wishes to move to an NHS paid for in future through user charges and private health insurance, not through National Insurance Tax as is the case now. In order to successfully prepare the public's sympathy towards his cause, his actions have been to starve the NHS of the appropriate level of finances, claim he is spending more money on the NHS than any previous government without stating exactly where the money has been spent.

In addition, enforce cut backs through targeting so-called efficiency savings and ensure a re-organisation which causes mayhem within Hospitals and GP Surgeries. Follow this up with messages of stark warnings about the NHS being unsustainable in its current form of budget through the National Insurance System, and taxes.

Pic: NHS For Sale - click to go the websiteIf either Cameron, Osborne or Hunt had announced an inquiry to re-consider a principle that has been sacrosanct since 1946, you’d expect front page headlines and Newsnight specials considering the implications. You’d expect a bit of a row about Cameron in effect back-tracking from his promises about a subject which voters said was their number one issue.

But the launch of this inquiry has not been reported in the mainstream media at all, and simply because it was casually announced by a little known minister, the newly ennobled “Under Secretary of State for NHS Productivity", Lord David Prior, in the rarefied atmosphere of a House of Lords debate on the “sustainability” of the NHS, moved on 9th July by crossbench peer Lord Patel.

So the Government have launched the debate on the NHS in the House of Lords, a place that no one has voted for, into an inquiry that no-one has voted for!

The principle of  how NHS funding is paid for has stood firm since 1946, summed up in clause 4 of its White Paper:

“All the service, or any part of it, is to be available to everyone in England and Wales. The Bill imposes no limitations on availability – e.g. limitations based on financial means, age, sex, employment or vocation, area of residence, or insurance qualification.”

That is very clear - the NHS is available to everyone, whether or not they can afford to pay user charges, or whether they are insurable.

Tory MP, and former deputy party Chair, now Lord Prior, was previously a strongly pro-market chair of the Care Quality Commission. He led for the government in the Lords debate.

Full details of what occurred during that debate was the subject of an article written by a reporter, Richard Grimes for the Open Democracy website. Here is part of his report:

'Before he [Lord Prior] seized the opportunity to push his agenda, he said he listened to the “strength of feeling” in the unelected House.

Pic: NHS Gold Card - click here to applyTory peers like Lord Cormack argued in favour of moving away from tax funding, saying:

"All forms of funding must be looked at. We have to have a plurality of funding if we are to have a sustainable NHS. Whether the extra funding comes from compulsory insurances or certain charges matters not, but it has to come.”

Matters not!? As a true Tory, he says that the funding should not come from taxing the rich (which he does not even countenance), but instead from taxing the sick.

More disappointing were the contributions from Labour peers like (the notoriously pro-privatisation) Lord Warner:

“Our tax-funded, largely free at the point of clinical need NHS is rapidly approaching an existential moment. The voices of dissent and outrage will no doubt be deafening but a wise Government should begin now the process of helping the public engage in a discourse about future funding of the NHS."

Far from endorsing the tax-funded system that is widely acknowledged to be the fairest way of paying for healthcare, here we have Labour peers suggesting the government should "help" the public to think of other ways to pay for healthcare.

Another Labour peer, Lord Desai, suggested bizarrely that patients should be issued with an "Oyster card" which is deducted whenever a patient uses healthcare, and patients should receive a "bill" at the end of the year, saying this would “help make it clear to people that a free National Health Service is not a costless one."

Shades of Jeremy Hunt's daft suggestion to put the price on prescription medicines.

But the problem with the NHS is not unnecessary demands, it is the sheer magnitude of people who need healthcare. An "NHS Oyster card" will not reduce the number of elderly people with acute co-morbidities. And if "consumer demand" is a problem, the solution is to turn patients back into patients rather than healthcare consumers, and remove the market.

Once their Lordships had had their say, Prior concluded for the government, saying that though he “personally” liked a tax-funded system, “if demand for healthcare outstrips growth in the economy for a prolonged period, of course that premise has to be questioned."

And he announced the ‘way forward’:

"I would like to meet the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and maybe two or three others, to discuss this in more detail to see whether we can frame some kind of independent inquiry—I do not think that it needs to be a royal commission. We are not short of people who could look at this issue for us; there are health foundations, such as the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund.”

Prior ignores the fact that the Kings Fund has already recently carried out an inquiry, the Barker Review, which rejected user charges and called instead for more taxes to pay for healthcare, in particular through a review of inheritance tax and national insurance increases.

Both of which George Osborne has just cut, of course.

So Prior orders another inquiry, this time using people he has chosen and presumably people who will produce the desired result. Such a fundamental inquiry should involve the public and be held in public, but it appears Prior does not want the public involved.

Is Prior, in announcing an inquiry into so fundamental an issue, acting above his paygrade as an unelected junior health minister? And are we being nudged towards an inefficient, unfair ‘pay NHS’ in the only way possible – undemocratically?'

Finally, it must be said that public opinion against the idea of a Pay Per Use NHS is of paramount importance in this battle to save the NHS.

Contact your MP pointing out to them that the government health minister, Lord Prior, has suggested to parliament that he plans to launch an inquiry to consider whether we should move away from a tax-funded NHS towards one funded by private health insurance and user payments.

If they are a Conservative MP ask them whether it is now official government policy to consider such a move away from the core principles of the NHS that have been in place since 1946? If they are not a Tory MP, ask them to ask David Cameron in parliament, the same question.

It would be a good idea to remind them of what David Cameron said in 2011:

'Let me make this clear - we will not be moving towards an insurance scheme, we will not introduce an American-style private system. In this country, we have this most wonderful, precious institution and idea. That whenever you're ill, however rich you are, you can walk into a hospital or surgery and get treated for free. No questions asked. No cash asked. I will never put that at risk.'

Please also ask your friends to do the same!

The full House of Lords debate on this issue can be read on Hansard here

Source: Hansard / Open Democracy / Daily Mirror / Unionsafety

image: back to news page

Designed, Hosted and Maintained by Union Safety Services