The crisis in the English National Health Service is deepening while Tories, led by Theresa May, quibble over the amount of money it is getting.
Simon Stevens holds up a copy of the Daily Mail at a public accounts committee meeting focusing on the crisis in the health service [Image: Parliament TV].
Mrs May told Sky News on Sunday that, “when the government had asked the NHS what it needed for the next five years, it had been given ‘more funding’ than ‘required’.”
But Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, denied this point-blank in evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday (Wednesday).
Ministers had said NHS England had requested £8bn and been allocated £10bn. But Mr Stevens told MPs that was to cover six years rather than the five-year plan he had put forward.
“I don’t think that’s the same as saying we are getting more than we asked for over five years.”
He also held up a copy of a Daily Mail report showing that health spending in England is much lower than in other European countries.
In any case, as This Site has pointed out – £10 billion won’t cancel out the £20 billion of cuts inflicted over the last few years – or the £22 billion consigned to private healthcare firms that Conservatives have invited to raid the NHS for lucrative contracts, and the bureaucracy associated with it. Mr Stevens described cuts to capital expenditure as “robbing Paul to pay Paul”.
In many cases, the companies gaining from NHS contracts – which turn public money into profits for their shareholders – had financial links to Conservative politicians. It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to understand that the introduction of private companies into the NHS was about enriching these Conservatives rather than improving health outcomes.
Former Conservative Health Secretary Steven Dorrell has supported Mr Stevens’ comments, and said the government “should be addressing the evidence about what is happening on the ground rather than engaging in a rather high-profile discussion about, frankly, what sound to the public like telephone numbers of public expenditure”.
In other words, the NHS needs action, not pointless arguments.
Meanwhile, more than 20 hospitals in England have had to declare a black alert this week after becoming so overcrowded that they could no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of normal services.
A black alert is defined as as a “serious incident”. It means the system is under severe pressure and is unable to deliver certain actions and comprehensive emergency care.
At least 23 hospital trusts have declared they cannot cope since Monday. Theresa May described this, at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, as “extra pressures on the NHS”. Do you think that is a fair description?
Labour MP Toby Perkins – whose father reportedly died in his arms after being mistakenly sent home during the last major NHS crisis in July last year – might take a different view.
Remember the NHS crisis last July? Nor do I. Apparently everybody was too busy to notice, as they were being whipped up against junior doctors, who were threatening industrial action over the danger to patients posed by a new contract introduced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt’s contract, which he later forced on junior doctors in spite of their concerns, demanded more work from them in conditions that were less safe. And here we are.
Do we believe Mrs May, who has lied about more money going into the NHS? Or Mr Hunt, who forced an unsafe contract on junior doctors that has almost certainly contributed to the current crisis?
Or do we believe junior doctor Rachel Clarke, who has made it absolutely clear that she believes the Conservatives are covering up the crisis and putting savings before safety.
She writes: “First-hand testimony from frontline doctors backs up the scale of the crisis, depicting almost unimaginable conditions of squalor and indignity up and down the country. “It’s an absolute war zone” said one junior doctor, “completely out of control” said another.
“Hunt’s denial of frontline reality has left doctors like me feeling utterly terrified for our patients. Two deaths on trolleys are two too many.
“Just how many more are required before the Government acts?”
I asked much the same question, days ago, after it was revealed the Red Cross had stepped in and called this a “humanitarian crisis”.
Dr Clarke writes: “Hunt condemned the ‘times when it might feel easier to conceal mistakes, to deny that things have gone wrong and to slide into postures of institutional defensiveness’, vowing instead to foster ‘a climate of openness, where staff are supported to do the right thing and where we put people first at all times.'”
Yet we know Theresa May had demanded that NHS trusts should not reveal the extent of the current crisis to the press and public.
“So why, at this time of crisis for NHS patients, has the Government spin machine cranked into overdrive, denying the seriousness of doctors’ concerns and promising the public that all is well? That is the precise opposite of what the nation was promised,” writes Dr Clarke.
“Everyone who works in the NHS has a duty of candour, and no Health Secretary should be exempt from that. If Hunt really cares about patients, then when frontline staff are clamouring to warn of crisis conditions that we know are costing lives, he owes it to patients to listen.”
Well, here’s a possibility: Perhaps Mrs May and Mr Hunt are holding on because they know their job is nearly finished. With NHS trusts facing a 21 per cent increase in tax next April – thanks to Tory changes – and the healthcare it provides in crisis – thanks to Tory changes – perhaps they think they only have to wait a while before being able to claim the NHS has had its day and it is time for an expensive private insurance system to take over – meaning more profit for them.
Theresa May set up a blind trust arrangement when she became prime minister, allowing her to hold on to shareholdings or other investments without disclosing what they are to the public. Does she have shares in private health? It is in the public interest to know, but she has refused to surrender the facts. Why?
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” That was the mantra when Mrs May – the same Mrs May – was pushing her Snooper’s Charter through Parliament against the will of the public. She is clearly afraid of divulging the details of her shareholdings. What does she have to hide?
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson certainly thinks the current issue brings the sustainability of the NHS into question.
He said a regular meeting of NHS chiefs discussed “at what point does public confidence in the NHS model of care, delivered free at the point of use based on clinical need not the ability to pay, come into question” – and the conclusion was that “What we are doing at the moment is not sustainable.”
One has to question this man’s attitude. Rather than fight for the NHS, he is ready to give it up – exactly as Mrs May and Mr Hunt must want.
But the people of the United Kingdom aren’t having it.
The NHS is our most precious possession – one that we know Conservatives hate and want to end. That is why we must fight them for it – all the way to the ballot box.
Theresa May and her cabinet cronies will stop at nothing to win this battle. They don’t care if your friends or relatives die on hospital trolleys after waiting unendurable times for treatment.
They don’t care that we know the NHS is only failing because they have deliberately crippled it.
They don’t care that three-quarters of the UK’s population didn’t vote for them and even most of those who did are supporters of the NHS.
They want their private system. They want their massive profits. They want to ruin your health forever, because you’ll never be able to afford their prices.
You cannot afford to lose the fight for the National Health Service.
What are you going to do?
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