It all seemed so positive – until the facts got in the way.
Theresa May announced a new “long-term plan” (they like talking about long-term plans; remember their long-term economic plan that sank us into £1.7 trillion of debt?) for the NHS on Sunday. Here’s here Twitter feed:
“The #NHSLongTermPlan will reinforce the NHS as a world leading health system when it comes to the money it spends on mental health services and the support and treatment it offers those who need it.” – PM @Theresa_May pic.twitter.com/mbDuaMgOka
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) January 6, 2019
And here’s the pretty video clip the Conservatives released to go with the announcement, full of empty slogans:
📢 Our #NHSLongTermPlan will:
💙 Support ageing & increasing independence.
💙 Provide the best maternity care in the world.
💙 Improve outcomes for all major conditions.
💙 Bring the NHS into the digital age.
💙 Increase the NHS workforce.
💙 Cut waste across the NHS.
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) January 7, 2019
About the only concrete announcement was one we’d had already – that the NHS budget is to rise by £20bn a year above inflation by 2023, although a detailed explanation of how that funding will be provided has not been forthcoming. Last June, Mrs May said it would arise from increased taxes and the so-called “Brexit dividend” – an increase in available money due to the UK’s departure from the EU.
Unfortunately for her, simple mathematics has shown that this “Brexit dividend” is fictional.
So it seems unlikely that all of the aims Mrs May has laid out for the new 10-year plan will be met. They include:
- Better mental health care, including round-the-clock advice from NHS 111 by 2023 and tailored services for young adults. Currently once someone in care turns 18 they are thrust into the adult system, often when they are not ready
- Providing the best maternity care in the world by improving safety and providing greater mental health support for new parents. One in five new mothers struggles with mental health in the first year of her baby’s life
- Greater control and choice in old age by expanding the use of personal budgets to allow people to decide what care they want, and greater support in the community so people do not end up in hospital
- Better prevention and detection of disease – cancer is expected to be a key focus with an ambition to increase the number of early detections from one in two cancers to three in four, which in turn will improve survival
- Increases in the NHS workforce – currently one in 11 posts is vacant
- Bringing the NHS into the digital age, including online GP booking, prescriptions management and health records
Oh, and let’s not forget the promised improvements to social care, after that was brought under the control of the Department of Health. A Green Paper was promised in 2017 and still hasn’t appeared.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock set the real agenda in an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky:
He said the plan is to place the blame for poor health on patients.
Obviously he didn’t reveal it in such bald terms; this is the age of spin, of the ‘nudge’ unit, of propaganda. So he put it this way: “The whole purpose of the NHS over the next 10 years needs to shift towards helping people to stay healthy, as much as curing them when they’re ill.”
“Helping” people. Is that like the DWP “helping” people towards work by denying them the benefits their taxes have funded throughout their working lives, pushing them towards destitution (and in some cases prostitution) if they don’t accept low-pay, no-benefit, substandard excuses for jobs?
You see, we’ve heard these lines before.
And he said a key part would be making the public take responsibility for their own health.
I don’t know about you, but I do take responsibility for my own health, and I resent the implication that I don’t. I look after myself as well as I’m able, and only bother the National Health Service when I have persistent symptoms that are causing me significant problems, when I have contracted a disease that I can’t treat on my own, or after a serious accident or other emergency. I don’t think I am alone in this behaviour either.
My fear is that this will become the all-purpose excuse for failure to treat people properly, by the NHS’s ever-diminishing workforce. That’s Rick B’s diagnosis:
Tory NHS plan in a nutshell, place blame on patients 'a key part will be making the public take responsibility for their own health;’ as rationing and privatisation are further ramped up https://t.co/DCtromtjPp
— Rick B (@TenPercent) January 7, 2019
Going back to the DWP, think of the all-purpose excuse wheeled out every time a benefit claimant is found to have committed suicide, leaving evidence that they took their own life in despair over the way they had been treated by benefit assessors: “Suicide is very complex and it would be wrong to attribute it to just one cause.” You can see the Department of Health readying its own all-purpose statement: “Unfortunately this patient did not take responsibility for their own health.”
And it seems likely this will be used as a smokescreen to mask other failings in the health service.
Labour was quick to raise these issues in video clips of its own. Here’s one:
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 7, 2019
Wow. All those targets missed and 40,000 nurse positions vacant, along with 9,000 doctors.
What did Mr Hancock have to say about that? Nothing. He said they’d be covered in separate plans, although he did add that having 30,000 of the nursing vacancies handled by agency staff can be “fixed”. That seems extremely suspicious.
Also glossed over is the fact that nothing is said about the service’s failure to meet any of its targets regarding waiting times. Labour touched that nerve with another video clip, that also raises concerns about Tory plans to privatise the NHS altogether:
Drum roll please… The Tories have finally revealed their #NHSLongTermPlan
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) January 7, 2019
Again, the Tories have said they’ll publish plans to address overlong waiting times at a later date. It seems NHS bosses are unhappy about promising anything they cannot deliver.
As for privatisation – with more than £8 billion spent on private companies that have been allowed to buy into the NHS by the Conservatives since 2012, concern is high that the whole service in England is being primed for sale, to be replaced with a private insurance-based system, as poor as the schemes currently failing the citizens of the United States. These fears are supported by the fact that current NHS boss Simon Stevens used to work for a US-based health profiteer:
"Simon Stevens is the head of NHS, & he spent the last 10 yrs working for an American private insurance company. We need serious answers about NHS Privatisation & the Land Grab taking place via Naylor Review & Phoenix Project"-Dr.Bob Gill#NHSLongTermPlanpic.twitter.com/iDzlydhcOD
— C0RBYNAT0R (@Corbynator2) January 7, 2019
This new 10-year plan, it seems, is setting out to do exactly what Noam Chomsky described when discussing the steps leading to privatisation: Strip the service of funds, make sure it doesn’t work properly, wait for people to complain, and then sell it to private profit-making firms with a claim that this will improve the service.
It never improves the service.
Look at our railways – stripped of funds, sold off to private firms, and now owned by foreign companies that use them to make huge profits at our expense.
Look at our water companies. Look at our energy suppliers. Look at our airports. It’s the same story across the board.
So you can look forward to a future in which you are blamed for any health problem that arises, and forced to pay through the nose for health insurance (that probably won’t cover your needs or won’t pay out at all, to judge by the American system).
It seems the Tories’ 10-year plan for the NHS is to trick you into an early grave.
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