Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced last Thursday that the government is writing off £13.4 billion of National Health Service debt.
Why has no Tory health secretary ever done that before?
There can only be one answer: because they simply didn’t want to.
As Richard Murphy states in his Tax Research UK article, the NHS wasn’t actually in debt to anybody – the money was owed by the government to the government. It was an item of book-keeping.
That book-keeping element was created to introduce hugely-expensive bureaucracy into the health system, that “diverted massive effort into corporate management, PR, and accounting when none of that was needed” as a precursor to full privatisation.
And it also removed the “national” element from the health service because trusts that run deficits are penalised by the Tory system; they have to try to recover the deficit and if they fail to do so, then they are told to recover more the following year.
This meant they were increasingly less likely to be able to provide the health care that patients needed; the money had to go to debt recovery instead.
That means the NHS is no longer a service to improve public health; it is a service to provide money to the Tories.
(And that’s before we even mention the cash that’s being leached away in contracts with private companies, that ends up in shareholder dividends instead of in treatment for patients.)
It’s as Noam Chomsky stated when he described the steps leading to privatisation: you defund, the system stops working, people complain, then you say the public system doesn’t work and commercialisation is the only way forward.
In other words, the Tories have been creating a lie that looks plausible, in order to fool us all into accepting the imposition of a private health service that we won’t be able to afford.
Hancock has written off the debt in order to make it possible for health trusts to buy in the resources they need to fight the coronavirus – which is good, right?
But when the crisis is over, the Tory system will still be in place, putting trusts in the most vulnerable parts of the UK back into debt and increasing health inequality.
Mr Murphy says the answer is to restore full nationalisation to the health service – ending the pointless bureaucracy that negates huge chunks of the annual NHS budget.
At a time when we’ve seen how the Tories left the NHS unprepared for coronavirus, he makes a good point.
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