Category Archives: Health

As the misnamed Health and Care Bill goes before MPs, here’s what it will do

Not for sale: sadly, this is just an aspiration now – held by those of us who still think healthcare should be based on patient need and not on provider profit.

[Vox Political first published this article in July. As the Health and Care Bill goes before MPs tomorrow and Tuesday (November 22-23), this seems an appropriate time for a reminder of how they intend to butcher your health service.]

Services will be cut or rationed and the NHS will become an unregulated market for healthcare firms under Sajid Javid’s contradictorily-named Health and Care Bill which – if enacted – will support neither.

That’s the message from Keep Our NHS Public campaigners.

The Bill will break the NHS into 42 separate ‘Integrated Care Systems’ (ICS), each with its own – tight – budget that could lead to cuts in care.

These new organisations would be open to the private sector – and the removal of competitive tendering means contracts could be handed straight to asset-stripping profiteers.

Already, 200 firms are connected to the new ICS structure, including at least 30 US-based health insurance companies.

Companies could be given access to confidential patient information, more patient care will be given by less qualified staff who are cheaper, and non-urgent referrals to hospital delayed or refused because of pressure to make savings.

A drive towards cash-saving digital services means face-to-face GP appointments may end.

The long-awaited overhaul of the care system may end up being a demand on already-overworked family carers to take on more unpaid work as unprofitable community services are stripped away altogether.

National agreements on pay, terms and conditions for NHS staff may be swept away with employees ordered to work wherever private-sector employers find it easiest to make a profit – undermining team working, union organisation and continuity of care.

Oh, and you remember the much-anticipated return of responsibility to the Secretary of State? It means a politician will be able to make devastating decisions about the NHS without any democratic accountability.

The Health Secretary will be able to deregulate jobs – offering them to candidates who don’t have the right qualifications but are available for the right price, risking harm to patients and interfering with professional judgement and staff development.

The NHS will be exempt from the Public Contract Regulations 2015, meaning it will be impossible to reject bids for contracts on the grounds of non-compliance with environmental, social, or labour laws guaranteeing Freedom of Association and the Right to Strike, or on the basis of a bidder’s previous history.

The Health Secretary will also impose local service reconfigurations, weakening or abolishing the right and power local authorities currently have to scrutinise significant health changes.

According to Dr John Lister, Secretary of Keep Our NHS Public and health policy academic

This Bill will not treat even one extra patient, or recruit one extra nurse

He asked why the new law is being deemed so urgent and important – but isn’t it obvious?

Javid, Johnson and the other Tory parasites want to turn your health into a profit-making industry for their donors as soon as possible.

I’ve just picked out the headline issues. Read more details here: Health and Care Bill means lucrative NHS contracts will be dished out ‘without competition’ | Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate

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Private health owns Sajid Javid. You can’t trust him with the NHS

Crook: Sajid Javid used his position as Health Secretary to sign government contracts with a US healthcare firm, in which he himself owns shares. He was diverting public funds to his own wallet in the form of dividends.

Sajid Javid has been using his job as Health Secretary to give government contracts to the US healthcare business specialising in artificial intelligence, of which he is a shareholder.

Here‘s the UK government press release in which we were all told artificial intelligence is the way forward. Javid himself is not quoted in support of it – a simple bit of sleight-of-hand to divert attention away from the fact that he is owned by a US healthcare firm specialising in AI.

The press release states:

GP surgeries are using artificial intelligence to help prioritise patients most in need and identify the right level of care and support needed for patients on waiting lists.

Now this:

It is a clear conflict of interest.

Even if artificial intelligence – applied to health care – is a good idea, we have no reason to believe the systems booked in by Javid to provide himself with a fat dividend are any good at all.

Like so many of his colleagues, he stands exposed as another filthy, corrupt political crook.

This Writer awaits his resignation. But knowing crooked UK politics, I won’t hold my breath waiting.

ADDITIONAL: It is worth remembering that Parliament is chock-full of MPs and Lords who have shares in private healthcare or have received cash from those companies:

This list is now seven years old. Some of those on it have gone; new names should be added to it. But it gives an idea of the extent to which private healthcare has sunk its claws into the heart of our government.

Do you honestly think you can trust anybody in Parliament to make the right decisions for the nation’s health?

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Backlash against ‘subjective’ Online Harms Bill may harm policing of social media trolls

Who would have thought the Online Harms Bill could reverse the roles of the aggressor and the victim in social media abuse?

A plan to base prosecution of online trolls on subjective judgements by lawyers could derail a perfectly good law.

The Times has reported on changes to the planned Online Harms Act:

Trolls could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content that causes psychological harm under legislation targeting online hate.

Ministers will overhaul communication laws by creating new offences in the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, the flagship legislation to combat abuse and hatred on the internet.

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has accepted recommendations from the Law Commission for crimes to be based on “likely psychological harm”.

The proposed law change will shift the focus on to the “harmful effect” of a message rather than if it contains “indecent” or “grossly offensive” content, which is the present basis for assessing its criminality.

A new offence of “threatening communications” will target messages and social media posts that contain threats of serious harm.

The sticking-point is the issue of “likely psychological harm”. Nothing else in the article is new – and This Writer has already supported much of what is planned.

I can’t support a clause that allows conviction based on nothing but wishful thinking.

How would a lawyer gauge “likely psychological harm”? Would they seek reports from medical experts? Would they examine the effect of the messages on their victim? Or would they just take the word of a social media user who may be a good actor with their own axe to grind?

It’s too subjective; it’s wide open to abuse.

The benchmark for criminal prosecution must always be harm that a person has definitely suffered – that can be proved by showing evidence. It can’t be based on hearsay or the wild claims of someone who makes a profession out of being offended.

So, for instance, the teenage girl in Rachel Riley’s libel case against me had genuine anxiety issues that, it could be argued, had been worsened by the dogpiling she suffered as a result of her Twitter encounters with Riley; she was terrified of leaving her home alone for a period of months afterwards.

If this law had been in force at the time – without the subjective element – I am satisfied that it would have been possible to show the harm that had been done.

The fear with the new measure is that it will allow people with a political axe to grind – most probably right-wingers, as usual – to victimise others by claiming psychological injury from social media posts that simply engage in robust debate.

See what I mean?

And note how The Times misrepresented the story; Twitter ‘pile-ons’ (more properly known as dogpiles) were already going to be criminalised before the subjective element was added in.

We all got the point:

Even a former Conservative chairman and Brexit minister has come out against this offence to justice: David Davis.

According to Sky News:

Mr Davis criticised the bill as “a good example of the best of intentions leading to the worst of outcomes” and warned that it was “a censor’s charter” as a result.

He warned that as the law is backed up by fines potentially stretching into billions of pounds for companies that fail to tackle this content, they will err on the side of caution.

“You can be sure that in any area of controversy – political issues, culture wars, or even COVID science – there will be plenty of people complaining and demanding a post be taken down.

“And with Silicon Valley mega corporations as arbiters of the truth, anything that appears online and can be characterised by someone as misinformation could be censored.

“The chilling effect on free speech will be terrible,” he added.

Still, being British, we can laugh at it:

We laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s probably true. It shows how low the UK government has fallen.

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Tories lift unfair threat to doctors over face-to-face appointments

Don’t sweat it, Sajid: really, this image should show egg on his face but we can’t have everything we want, can we?

The GP strike is off – for the moment.

You’ll remember This Site reporting last week that GPs in England were threatening to strike after Sajid Javid wanted to compel them to hold face-to-face appointments with anybody who wants one – and threatened to publicly humiliate surgeries that didn’t meet targets he would impose.

Well… it seems Javid has discovered that a week in politics really is a long time.

After the threats and counter-threats, appointment figures for September have been published – showing that GPs have already conducted a significantly higher number of face-to-face appointments.

Remember, they started doing this before Javid made his ridiculous threat.

According to The Guardian,

Figures from NHS Digital show that 28.5m appointments were estimated to have taken place in September – about 8% higher than for the same month in 2019, and up around 3m on the figure for August.

Of the appointments made in September, 43.2% took place on the same day they were booked and 61% were in person. This 17.3m total for face-to-face contacts is the highest figure recorded since February 2020 and is up by about 3.5m on the figure for August, when 58% of appointments were face-to-face, the data suggests.

It’s still fewer than the 80 per cent of appointments that were face-to-face before the arrival of the Covid crisis…

But it was enough to cause a shamefaced Department of Health and Social Care to withdraw its threat to publish monthly “league table” data showing what proportion of surgery appointments occur in person or virtually,

according to sources.

Oh, and

An NHS source claimed “naming and shaming” GPs carrying out low levels of face-to-face appointments had never been included in the plans, only that “appropriate levels of face-to-face appointments for patients based on local need must be delivered”. The NHS source added that “while more localised access data will be published, the plan does not include ‘naming and shaming’”.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter now that it isn’t going to happen anyway, does it?

Source: GPs win ‘significant concessions’ from NHS England over in-person access | GPs | The Guardian

No ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS? Then why are GPs threatening to strike?

Sajid Javid: behind the smug smile there appears to be no intelligence at all.

The following tweets appeared next to each other on my timeline:

It’s just more evidence that Sajid Javid was lying when he said pressure on the NHS due to Covid-19 was “not unsustainable” – as if we needed it, after Stephen Powis contradicted him during his own press conference on Wednesday:

GPs are under severe pressure due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis – worsened by the government’s refusal to take action to reduce infections, in the face of increases past 50,000 a day and the worst death rate since March.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid wants to compel them to hold face-to-face appointments with anybody who wants one – and is threatening to publicly humiliate surgeries that don’t meet targets he imposes.

As a result,

GPs in England are threatening industrial action in protest at the government’s attempt to force them to see any patient who wants a face-to-face appointment.

The British Medical Association’s GPs committee voted unanimously to reject the plan by the health secretary, Sajid Javid.

The doctors’ union has decided to hold a ballot on possible industrial action, which could result in family doctors at the 6,600 practices in England reducing the work they undertake.

So Javid’s interference is likely to make it less possible to see a GP personally. What a stupid way to run a health service.

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Javid announces scheme to blame GPs for lack of face-to-face appointments

Smug: Javid’s new scheme won’t do enough to help GPs cope with demand for face-to-face appointments – but he’ll be able to use it to blame them when they don’t.

The Tory Health Secretary has announced funding to “help” GPs arrange more face-to-face appointments with patients, in response to complaints from the public.

But there are huge problems with the scheme – of course there are; it’s a Tory plan to divert blame for short-changing the NHS onto people working in the service and away from themselves.

So before you watch the video clip, read Jonathan Ashworth’s comment – and then the  response below:

So it’s not enough money to make a real difference in each GP practice, and the cash is taken from existing budgets, meaning some other part of the NHS will lose out. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes.

And there’s no acknowledgement of the reasons GPs are under pressure in the first place – all connected to Tory deprivation:

So the Tory governments of 2010 onward cut funding, closed GP practices, and put people off training as doctors.

The Tories knew there was a lack of manpower in GP surgeries since at least 2016.

There are nearly 2,000 fewer GPs than six years ago and the Tory plan will do nothing to change this.

He is setting up your local GP surgery to take the blame for future failures.

And of course he is denying it (because he has already been challenged):

Strangely, despite the BBC’s tweet, none of Javid’s comments in the article address the issue. Perhaps it was mentioned in a previous draft and edited out by a Tory in the Corporation’s hierarchy?

Still, we can all see what’s going on:

Here’s a snapshot of the current situation that Javid’s scheme is unlikely to help:

And this is telling: if Javid’s scheme is so good, why has he cried off speaking at the annual conference of the Royal College of GPs?

Some of us may have satirical fun with it…

… but in context this is shocking hypocrisy from the Tories. Here’s David Shepherd to explain:

It’s a very good question. But it’s just another one that the Tories won’t answer.

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Sajid Javid doesn’t know pharmacists can already prescribe medicines

Sajid Javid: he always looks so pleased with himself despite having absolutely no reason for it.

A new plan by Health Secretary Sajid Javid – to relieve pressure on GPs by allowing pharmacists to prescribe medicines – is almost certain to fail because they can already do that.

It seems Javid is so poor at his job that he doesn’t realise his local chemist has been allowed to write prescriptions for routine illnesses since 2006.

As a way of handling complaints that patients can’t get face-to-face appointments with their doctor, this will be another Tory disaster.

Changes that would make a real difference – like those proposed last year by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society that would allow pharmacists to make changes to the quantities, strength and formulation of prescriptions dispensed, or supply another version of a medicine on prescription – do not appear to be part of Javid’s plan.

What an ignoramus.

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State not responsible for health care says Javid – lining up NHS for full privatisation?

Covid Javid: he was happy to whip off his mask (in a secure environment) but his words and his deeds as Health and Social Care Secretary mark him out as a danger to public health.

I know his nasal whine is irritating but try to get through the following clip of Sajid Javid’s speech to the Tory conference so you can understand what he’s saying.

I think Alex Andreou has it pretty much right:

Family first, then community, then the state? What?

So, with Covid-19 (for example), by Javid’s lights, we should all have sought a remedy from our families? That would have achieved nothing apart from their infection.

Having failed there, were we then supposed to go to the community – other people’s families – and infect them too?

By the time we got round to asking the state – as demanded by Javid in his speech to the Tory conference – many of us would already have been dead.

What a puerile claim from our supposed Health and Social Care Secretary! No wonder 1,000 people are dying every week while he mouths these platitudes.

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Brexit-prompted tube shortage means UK doctors can’t do blood tests

Scheduled blood tests are being cancelled across the UK and doctors are being forced to make hard decisions about what to do if they lose the ability to provide life-saving diagnostic testing due to a Brexit-prompted shortage of blood collection tubes.

Becton Dickinson, the NHS’s main supplier of blood collection tubes, has been blamed for the shortage, with the manufacturer suggesting the post-Brexit HGV driver shortage could be to blame, according to iNews.

The Department of Health and Social Care is desperately trying to play down the crisis, saying everything is being done to eliminate the shortage.

But NHS England has released new guidance that aims to reduce the use of blood tubes to the bare minimum, suggesting that the issue is serious.

And bosses of the British Medical Association – the doctors’ trade union – are furious. Their press release on the situation makes this abundantly clear [boldings mine]:

“The BMA says the shortage of blood tubes across hospitals and GP surgeries is now severe and if the NHS does not reduce the amount being used in the coming days, even the most clinically important blood tests may be at risk.

“Doctors at the BMA have already made plain their concerns about the implications for patients and their anger that this shortage has been allowed to happen in the first place. However, in the absence of a plan to bring in alternative supplies before the middle of next month, the situation is now urgent. The BMA is urging all doctors to follow the NHS guidance and carry out only the most critical of tests for the time being.

“Dr David Wrigley, BMA council deputy chair, said: ‘This crisis has put doctors and their patients in a terrible, unenviable position. No doctor knowingly undertakes unnecessary blood tests and to now have to ration all those we are doing, as well as cancel hundreds more, goes against everything we stand for as clinicians.

“‘However, if we don’t try to follow the NHS guidance, it’s clear we will get to the point where even the most clinically urgent of blood tests may not be able to be done as we simply won’t have the tubes for the blood to go into.

“‘We are at a very perilous point and it’s surprising that NHS England hasn’t declared a critical incident given the very strong possibility that NHS organisations may temporarily lose the ability to provide lifesaving diagnostic testing. We also call on NHS England to commit to the changes that are needed for their guidance to be properly followed by doctors, and provide patients with detailed, easily accessible information about the situation.

“‘Many GP practices – like mine – will now have to spend hours assessing which already scheduled tests can or cannot be cancelled and this takes time away from frontline patient care when it is most needed. Cancelling tests makes patients anxious and can mean a missed diagnosis.’

“Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said: ‘The very suggestion that an acute hospital trust needs to reduce testing by 25 per cent is highly alarming. However, to try and avoid a situation where there are simply no more blood tubes, we have no choice but to now make very careful decisions about which tests to carry out.

“‘It is shocking that this situation has been allowed to develop – in particular, the apparent over-reliance on one manufacturer and the woeful lack of any kind of reserve supply. The manufacturers should also have to explain how they allowed stocks to run so low that patients will now suffer as a result. If we don’t get on top of this shortage – and quickly – then we could very easily end up in a catastrophic position, particularly in hospitals where patients come to serious harm.’”

“Severe… anger… terrible, unenviable position… goes against everything we stand for as clinicians… Perilous… can mean a missed diagnosis… highly alarming… shocking that this situation has been allowed to develop… Woeful… catastrophic… patients come to serious harm.”

And it is – apparently – a result of Brexit. And the “politicians” responsible for it couldn’t care less.

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Millions opt out of NHS data grab, forcing it – temporarily? – to go ‘on hold’

Money-making scam: The idea was to make your confidential health information public knowledge, in order to make money for private health firms (some of which are from the United States).

This is a victory for people power.

You remember your Tory government’s plan to give away your personal – private – health records to marauding health companies so they can profit from them?

The plan that keeps surfacing every few years and keeps getting batted back by a UK public that wants this material to stay confidential?

Well, we’ve just succeeded in stopping it again. For the time being, at least.

The current attempt started in May, when NHS Digital announced that, if you lived in England, it would be putting the private details of your mental and sexual health, criminal records, smoking and drinking habits onto disc and handing them to “third parties”. Almost nobody noticed.

The plan provided an opportunity for patients to opt out – if they did so by a deadline of June 23, which was ridiculously fast. It seems clear that the intention was to pass your information over before you even knew it was happening.

And then organisations like This Site became involved.

I published my first article about this on June 2.

The result was uproar.

Now we see that, after 107,429 people opted out in May, when nobody knew about it, 1,275,153 did so in June – around 12 times as many people.

Questions were asked in the House of Commons and the opt-out deadline was extended to September – and now the scheme is being withdrawn altogether, albeit temporarily, according to NHS Digital.

May we conclude that even more millions of people opted out during July and the first weeks of August?

But NHS Digital is not abandoning the scheme altogether – just pausing it, with no new launch date. Here’s The Observer:

It will soon start a “listening exercise” and consultation process before launching a public information campaign.

Who will be told about it?

In a major concession to critics, patients will now be allowed to opt out at any stage, with their data deleted even if it has already been uploaded.

Am I the only one with doubts about that? If it has already been provided to private firms, there’s nothing to stop them from taking that information off the database and keeping it in a form of their own. If they know it may be altered, they probably will.

NHS Digital is also pledging to increase the security and privacy of the data, even while researchers are working with it.

I do not believe this.

There is a fundamental dishonesty that goes to the heart of this scheme, and it is the lie that private firms care about your health more than their profits.

Private firms were allowed to run NHS services for profit soon after the David Cameron coalition government came into office, in a change supported by many Tory MPs who had shares in those firms.

The plan to give your confidential information to those private firms was first tried very soon after that, in 2013. To me, this was evidence that the Tory plan all along had been to make money for profit-grubbers and not to improve healthcare.

The public has batted it away time and time again since then, but time and time again the Tories have brought it back.

Their latest claim is that

“Patient data is vital to healthcare planning and research. It is being used to develop treatments for cancer, diabetes, long Covid and heart disease, and to plan how NHS services recover from Covid.”

That’s why they want to take away our right to privacy and confidentiality and I don’t believe a word of it. How can it be used to develop these treatments when we haven’t handed it over? And how have these treatments been developed in the past?

The simple fact is that it is our information – not theirs. And if we don’t want it to be shared, there’s nothing they can do about it.

Source: NHS data grab on hold as millions opt out | NHS | The Guardian