Will NHS England kill patients while trying to protect its budgets?


Here’s an illuminating story.

An elderly person in Bristol attended hospital early last week, complaining of severe pain that suggested a hernia. A doctor examined this person and said that, in fact, a double-hernia was in evidence – but the hospital could not provide any form of treatment because the patient’s GP practice had not referred them.

The hospital was unwilling to treat the patient if the GP practice was unwilling to pay for it, you see.

The patient had to go home and phone their doctor. The practice agreed to a home visit on Tuesday. The patient dutifully waited for this visit to take place but nobody turned up. Calling the practice later, they were told that this was because they were booked to attend the surgery on Friday – and had to respond that, firstly, they would not have attended because nobody had told them of this change and, secondly, that Friday was too late in view of the patient’s condition and much more urgent action was necessary.

Is this the bright, bold and above all efficient new NHS that David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and all their little neoliberal minions have been promoting so avidly since 2010?

It clearly poses nothing less than a clear and terrifying threat to public health.

What if the patient had been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition? Would the hospital have left them to die while administrators there and at the GP practice haggled over the cost?

The answer, it seems, is a clear yes.

That is the cost of the wholesale commercialisation that the Conservative Party has brought to the NHS in England – along with the losses listed in the image above. The Tories think it is a price worth paying, if it means they can squeeze money out of sick proles.

Here’s the solution:


“The market is not the answer to 21st century healthcare.” Those were the words of Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary, this morning (Sunday).

He followed it up on Twitter, after being asked if that meant Labour policy was to reverse the marketisation of the NHS, with a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Some of you may well have doubts. Labour does not have the best record on the NHS – look at PFI, care of the elderly, and the extent to which the last Labour government allowed the private sector into the health service… and then look at this:


The first step towards improving a situation is to admit the mistakes that have been made. Labour has done this. In fact – look at the date on the image – Labour did it more than two years ago.

Looking at PFI – the Private Finance Initiative – this was in fact first used by the Conservative Government in 1992. It proliferated under Labour after Treasury civil servants advised that its benefits outweighed the risks at the time. In terms of healthcare, Labour had inherited a service that had been run into the ground by nearly 20 years of Tory neglect and needed a fast injection of cash before the UK’s hospitals started falling down around their users.

In those circumstances, PFI seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t – but it would be wrong for opportunists to suggest that PFI was dreamed up by Labour or that Labour should be deemed untrustworthy because of it. It was a stop-gap solution and those contracts must now be bought out before they can damage the nation’s finances any further.

What, you think we can’t afford it? George Osborne has spent more money in four and a half years than every Labour Chancellor since Labour first formed a government and you think we can’t afford this? Think again.

It won’t happen under a Conservative government – they’ll just make matters worse. The Liberal Democrats and WhoKIP won’t help either – they’re just Tory enablers at the end of the day.

If you live in England, and you need just one reason to vote Labour next May, it’s the National Health Service.

Does somebody have to die first?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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  1. Nick October 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    the main problem mike is that mp’s don’t understand on what their told they take it as gospel they never research anything for themselves they always rely on others for any type of information

    They must know on what goes on behind closed doors and if they don’t there just playing the fool

    hospital staff are no different there will be good and bad in every hospital and only the chief will know on what truly goes on and to what extent he or she turns a blind eye to

    its not rocket science you can either run a good hospital or a bad one and if you have the wrong chief you will end up with a bad hospital it’s as simple as that and that goes for any business or government

  2. Mozart October 20, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Our great NHS system being sold down the river whilst peoples lives are at stake. Will the Government hold up their hands and say sorry if someone was to die due to the irresponsible practises that are being allowed to go on? No they won’t, just as bad as the contaminated blood issue during the 80’s! People are still waiting for answers to this day, whilst over 2,000 people have died and continue to do so.

  3. hstorm October 20, 2014 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I do like Andy Burnham, and I would seriously consider voting Labour if he were leader. (Everton fan though he may be!)

    Sadly though, I worry that he may be yet another public figure who won’t be nearly as forthright with what he wants to see done if he ever got into a position actually to do it. But even then, I would accept a thousand Burnhams as Health Secretary before I would tolerate even one of Andrew Lansley or Jeremy Hunt.

  4. amnesiaclinic October 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Just putting more money in isn’t going to help. The whole of the NHS needs taking back into the public domain again and if we end up with TTIP as Cameron and Osborne want that will not be allowed to happen. NHS England is just a commissioning board to sell off the remaining bits.

    • Mike Sivier October 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm - Reply

      You’re right about NHS England.
      TTIP isn’t going to happen tomorrow, unless the schedule is very suddenly and very massively accelerated. If a Labour government is elected next May, then the marketization of the NHS will be reversed and it will be removed from any TTIP agreement.

      • Malcolm Burt October 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

        The government were hoping to get the TTIP agreement under their belt before the year end,& it will be extremely difficult for any future Parliament to get any of it reversed,once it goes through.This,you may recall,is about the only truth that Cameron spoke about just after he formed the coalition.Personally,i would have preferred opposition to the whole bill,rather than just the protection of the N.H.S.,but that is a problem for the Labour Party to deal with.That aside,what concerns me more is that,should Labour win the next election,how long would it be before Alan Milburn is brought back into the fold at the first cabinet reshuffle?I prefer to judge on previous performances,rather than rely on future promises.The track record of all our major parties speaks for itself,because at least we know that party manifestos are not worth the paper that they are printed on.

  5. Chris October 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I attended accident department without any referral from my GP and got checked and went home. But got my x-ray.

    A hospital that needs a GP to refer you when you have presented to a hospital doctor, is denying treatment.

    But then hospital policy for a long time has been that you cannot demand treatment in the NHS.

    Over many years I have attended either accident or emergency without a GP referral, for my own health reasons and to take in my parents. At no time did I get this run around.

    What IS wrong with the current politically designed NHS is that managers who run a desk are in charge of medicine.

    The NHS worked fine when it was run directly by the senior medical consultants.

    Not by politicians and not by desk managers and accountants.

    What may also be occurring is that the NHS does not want to treat the elderly, who tend to have multiple health issues already beyond the presenting health conditions when go to the hospital.

    The NHS cannot seem to cope with the multiple medicines needed, instead of just listening to the patient or getting the pharmacy to put the medicines from them in the cassettes that separate tablets nicely into hour of day slots.

    Give medicine back to the doctors.

  6. Barry Davies October 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Well hospitals are being closed so that other hospitals with huge pfi debts can get more income however this backfires because more patients means longer waiting lists so targets are not met and the hospital is fined meaning basically we are paying more for a worse healthcare system.

    • Mike Sivier October 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Yup – all because the Tory governments of 1979-97 couldn’t be bothered to fund the NHS properly.

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