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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