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The fear: Many people believe the introduction of private health companies into the NHS is part of a plan that will lead to complete privatisation, with people forced to take out expensive health insurance policies.

Jeremy Hunt has been up to his usual tricks again – misrepresenting statistics in a desperate bid to influence public opinion on his (mis)management of the National Health Service.

Yesterday he decided to raise the issue of private health insurance on Twitter. He tweeted, “Another blow to privatisation myth: 400k fewer taking out private insurance since 2010. Big vote of confidence in NHS,” along with a link to an article in The Times. We shan’t bother with that article; it is behind a paywall and its claim is not disputed in any case.

No, he’s employing a form of argument known as the Excluded Middle – assuming there are only two possible alternatives when in fact there are more.

Just because 400,000 fewer people are taking out private medical insurance, that does not mean they are more confident in a Conservative-run (and part-privatised National Health Service).

For example, as Yr Obdt Srvt tweeted to Mr Hunt: “If this is accurate, perhaps it’s because people can no longer afford it, due to your government’s policies.”

This was a common response. Witness the following, from ‘Flo’: “such is the pull on cost of living probably can’t afford it… Nothing to do with health of NHS.”

And this, from David Price: “Or too poor to take out insurance?”

So – another plot foiled. People aren’t dropping private insurance because they’re happier with the NHS; they simply can’t afford it.


Meanwhile, in the real world, the number of patients turning to A&E has risen 10 times faster under the current Government, according to analysis by the House of Commons Library.

An extra 600,000 patients are visiting A&E departments, in comparison with the time of the last general election. A&E attendances did increase in the four years to 2010 – but by 60,000, one-tenth of the rise in the last four years.

Mr Hunt has already told MPs that his research blamed an ageing population and changing consumer expectations for the rise in attendances, but Labour says the rate of increase cannot be explained so easily and will call on Jeremy Hunt to publish his analysis in full today (January 21).

Figures show that an extra 290,000 patients have turned to A&E because they could not get a GP appointment – including Mr Hunt – and one in four NHS Walk-in Centres have closed; at least an extra 98,000 patients aged over 90 have arrived at A&E via blue light ambulance each year, because they are among the 300,000 people who have had social care support taken away; and NHS 111 is on course to recommend an A&E visit to 50 per cent more patients this year than last.

In the last month, 179,416 patients waited over four hours to be seen in England’s A&Es – more than double the 74,108 patients waiting that long in the same period last year.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will call on the government to stop the closure of the walk-in centres and improve access to GPs and social care this winter. He will also ask Ministers not to sign the NHS 111 contracts due for renewal until a flawed business model, which replaced experienced nurses with call centre staff, is changed.

“Rather than blaming patients, the time has come for Ministers to take responsibility for the crisis they have created in England’s A&E departments. It is their failure to face up to those real causes that prevents them finding a proper solution,” he is expected to say.

“The situation in A&Es has intensified in recent weeks, but David Cameron’s complacency means he’s putting patients at risk. If he’s going to take the pressure off A&Es, he must … give patients the support they need.”

It’s a forlorn hope and everybody knows it.

After all, Mr Hunt is in cloudcuckooland, making up stories about private insurance.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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