This should be seen as absolute proof that it has been a policy to deny coronavirus care to people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.
This Writer has noted some scepticism in the responses to yesterday’s article about the GP practice in Wales that wrote to people with ongoing medical conditions, telling them that equipment used to treat coronavirus is being rationed and they were not likely to be treated if they contracted the disease. Instead, the letter asked them to sign a form directing medical staff not to attempt to resuscitate them if they succumbed to the virus.
My own attitude to this is clear: as we have all paid into the National Health Service, throughout our lives, we all deserve the best possible care available from it. I asked: do politicians and royalty get preferential treatment? If so, why?
Also, just because a person has an underlying condition, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to shrug off the virus, given the same help that is provided to everybody else.
Now the British Medical Association, the Care Provider Alliance, the Care Quality Commission and the Royal College of General Practitioners have released a joint statement, saying more or less the same.
Here’s the statement:
It reads [boldings mine]:
The importance of having a personalised care plan in place, especially for older people, people who are frail or have other serious conditions has never been more important than it is now during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Where a person has capacit, as defined by the Mental Capacity Act, this advance care plan should always be discussed with them directly. Where a person lacks the capacity to engage with this process then it is reasonable to produce such a plan following best interest guidelines with the involvement of family members or other appropriate individuals.
Such advance care plans may result in the consideration and completion of a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) or ReSPECT form. It remains essential that these decisions are made on an individual basis. The General Practitioner continues to have a central role in the consideration, completion and signing of DNAR forms for people in community settings.
It is unacceptable for advance care plans, with or without DNAR form completion to be applied to groups of people of any description. These decisions must continue to be made on an individual basis according to need.
It’s saying that any policy requiring medical staff to write off any individual – of any age and condition – as untreatable without discussing their situation with them is wrong.
If the government has handed that down to healthcare providers as a requirement, then it is wrong.
If anybody has already died as a result of such a policy, then those responsible must be identified and must pay the appropriate penalty.
This is real. It is important. It could be deadly. Don’t let the Tories get away with it.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Mansel Aylward, former chief medical officer at the Department of Work and Pensions: Architect of misery?
The Disabled Activists’ Network Cymru (DAN Cymru) is organising a vigil and protest against a decision by the Socialist Health Association to give a platform to Sir Mansel Aylward, the man behind the Department of Work and Pensions’ Work Capability Assessment.
Data released by the DWP last month show that thousands of people have died after being found “fit to work” by the deeply flawed WCA, which was introduced by Sir Mansel while he was Chief Medical Officer of the DWP.
A statement by DAN Cymru declared: “As disabled people we are dismayed at the lack of solidarity shown to us by Socialist Health Association through their decision to give legitimacy to Sir Mansel and the discredited ‘biopsychosocial model’ of disability on which the WCA is based.”
The biopsychosocial model on which the WCA is based is a brainchild of the US medical insurance industry, particularly Unum, which funds Sir Mansel. Unum Provident Insurance were fined $31.7 million in 2003 in a class action law suit in California for running ‘disability denial factories’ in which they use the pseudoscientific and discredited biopsychosocial model to deny medical insurance payouts to thousands of ill and disabled Americans.
Dr Liza van Zyl, a disabled member of DAN Cymru, said: “A lot of disabled people who become involved in DAN Cymru initially found us when they were searching the internet for ways to commit suicide because the DWP stopped their income after the WCA found them fit to work.
“The WCA has been the cause of so much suffering and destitution of disabled people in Wales. It is staggering beyond belief that the Welsh Government has appointed the man responsible for the WCA to chair Public Health Wales.”
Rob Marsh, convenor of DAN Cymru said: “The biopsychosocial model is a cargo-cult science with no credibility in the medical and scientific establishment.
“The British Medical Association has condemned the WCA and called for it to be scrapped. The BMA has found that eight out of 10 GPs report that their patients find the WCA and the DWP-administered benefits system so stressful that it causes mental ill-health in those patients who did not previously have mental health conditions.
“And over half of WCA assessments are overturned on appeal, at huge cost to the taxpayer. It is staggering that Aylward is considered an appropriate person to advise the Welsh Government on public health and disability matters”.
A summary of the Work Capability Assessment, the Biopsychosocial model of disability, and its introduction into the UK welfare system by Sir Mansel Aylward can be found here.
The protest will take place at 6.30pm today (Tuesday, September 8) outside the Unison Wales offices on Custom House Street, Cardiff CF10 1AP.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA, announced that all doctors would be advised of the potentially life-saving regulations.
Doctors’ union the British Medical Association has finally agreed to brief every GP in the UK about regulations that campaigners believe could protect disabled people facing the controversial work capability assessment.
The rules state that a claimant should not be found fit for work (regulation 29), or placed in the ESA work-related activity group (regulation 35), if such a decision would pose “a substantial risk” to their “mental or physical health”.
These regulations are well-known to grassroots and social media campaigns, but campaigners including Black Triangle (BT) believed that many GPs were still unaware of them. They have been trying to persuade the BMA to inform GPs about the regulations since August 2012.
The timing of the BMA’s decision is interesting – nearly three years after originally being asked to publicise the regulations, and right before a general election.
As Black Triangle’s John McArdle told the Disability News Service: “A lot of lives could have been saved in that time and a lot of people could have been saved from trauma and destitution.”
He went on to say that the move was “better late than never”.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, said: “The BMA position remains that the work capability assessment process should be scrapped with immediate effect and replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.
“The BMA has consistently lobbied politicians on this issue in the past few years and will continue to do so.
“We will ensure that our members are informed about the current regulations around work capability assessments, so as to help patients get the best outcome for their needs.”
The work capability assessment has been linked with relapses, self-harm, suicides and other deaths among those who have been assessed.
This man receives more than £150,000 from the state per year, and is warning other obese people to lose weight or lose benefits. Looks like he’s desperate to lose his own when they come up for review in May!
The Conservative Party seems determined to sink itself into the deepest, blackest hole ever created by a political organisation for itself.
While other parties unveil attractive policies designed to bring voters onboard, the Tories have said they want to remove benefits from people they have decided are fat. Here’s the Independent story, and for good measure we’ll throw in the BBC‘s coverage too.
You might be thinking to yourself, why not? They’ve already attacked people on Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and DLA as scroungers; they’ve pushed pensionable ages back by years; and they’re about to attack people who are on pensions, already. Why not continue proving what a bunch of spoiled little schoolboys they are by picking on fatties as well (oh, along with druggies and alkies)?
Perhaps because, as ‘Neti’ pointed out on Twitter: “Medication can mean that people gain weight and not be overeating.”
Exactly so. It seems the Tories are spoiling for a fight with the British Medical Association which, in 2013, said calls by Tory-held Westminster Council to cut the benefits of overweight people who refused exercise regimes were “draconian”.
Here’s another voice from Twitter – John Wight: “Tories now attacking obese and others on sickness benefit. Another wheeze designed to appeal to smug middle classes.”
Quite. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the policy has been announced by David Cameron, himself no stranger to a large meal.
… Or drink.
“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work,” he said.
Fair enough. So if Cameron can’t slim down by May 7, we’ll know that he doesn’t want the support of our public money any more and he wants to go back to a life of work.
His career was in public relations, unless the memory cheats.
It seems likely he may have blown his chances of going back there.
Following the bogus Work Capability Assessment (WCA) conducted by Atos Healthcare, as contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the United Kingdom (UK) Government admitted that it was wrong to cut the disability benefits of Mark Wood, the vulnerable disabled man who starved to death following the removal of his benefits, in the 21st century UK, when weighing only 5st 8lbs.
Despite the fact that the WCA was introduced by the Labour Government in 2008, it was originally designed by previous Conservative Governments, in consultation with the notorious American corporate giant now known as Unum Insurance, identified in 2008 by the American Association for Justice as the second most discredited insurance company in America.
Without a welfare state, sick and disabled people in America are required to use private healthcare insurance. The tyranny now imposed on the sick and disabled people in the UK, using the WCA, was designed in consultation with Unum Insurance to oblige the general public to purchase private income protection insurance policies once it was made very clear that chronically sick and disabled people could no longer rely on the British State for adequate financial support.
Americans often suffer when attempting to claim from the income protection insurance policies of Unum Insurance, who use an identical bogus disability ‘assessment’ model as that used by Atos Healthcare.
Due to the similarities of the negative and damaging experiences of claimants, American sick and disabled people are periodically informed about the struggle in the UK by the high calibre and relentless work of Linda Nee, who tries to encourage claimants to publicly protest as witnessed in the UK, which it seems disabled Americans still don’t dare to do – such is the intimidation of Unum Insurance & the American authorities (see here, here and here).
The new report by The Mental Health Welfare Commission for Scotland, regarding a woman’s suicide after being ‘stripped of disability benefits’, was reported by John Pring at the Disability News Service (DNS) and by many others. The Coalition Government knew this carnage would happen.
Three years ago a list of distinguished academics, together with politicians and disability support groups, identified the future in a letter as published in The Guardian newspaper: ‘Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor.’ Now, three years after this letter was published, questions are being asked as to why the appointed and totally unsuitable Lord Freud, in his capacity as the Minister for Welfare Reform – who was not elected by anyone in the usual democratic way – deemed it necessary for the DWP to stop collating the numbers of deaths recorded after the long-term sickness and disability benefit, Incapacity Benefit, now changed to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA), is removed from claimants. (My emphasis.MS)
Questions are also being asked as to why this unelected former City banker was ever afforded so much authority and power in the UK Government given his reputation, where one commentator described Freud as: ‘…one of the key players in several of the most embarrassing and badly managed deals in investment banking history.’ (See here and here)(My emphasis. MS)
The recent welfare Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons (HOC) was granted due to the 104,000 signatures on the WOW petition, as gathered by disabled people and their carers, who are demanding a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare reforms. The debate was held on February 27, 2014 where, lamentably, most Coalition Government Members of Parliament (MPs) failed to attend this very important and historic debate. Of course, Coalition MPs still played the ‘blame game’, reminding the opposition that the previous Labour Government had introduced the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
However, the Coalition routinely overlook the fact that they knowingly changed the WCA into the government-funded nightmare that it is today, whilst MPs such as George Hollingbury (Column 430) actually claimed that the Coalition “took it forward”… (Welfare Reform Act 2012) whilst disregarding the fact that a WCA face-to-face assessment with Atos Healthcare is taking over six months to arrange. (Column 433) (My emphasis.MS)
Hollingbury waxes lyrically about all the ‘expert’ opinion (Column 431) that totally failed to expose the dangerous and limited reality of the WCA, not least due to the restricted possible answers in the tick box WCA computer questionnaire, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that fail to offer the choice of ‘none of the above’ as an additional possible answer when the WCA questions do not refer to a particular claimant’s situation.
Hollingbury quotes Dr Litchfield’s WCA review whilst overlooking the fact that Professor Harrington, who conducted the first three annual reviews into the WCA, when no longer responsible, appeared in a BBC Panorama documentary and confirmed that ‘…people will suffer.’ No government representative can answer the subsequent obvious simple question – why should chronically sick and disabled people ‘suffer’ in the UK, apart from at the whim of a tyrannical government? (My emphasis.MS)
During the historic WOW petition debate, Alan Reid (Column 434 & 435) claims to be proud of his record in government as a Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem), still claiming that Lib Dems in government have been responsible for ‘improving’ the WCA process, whilst totally disregarding the fact that it is irrelevant how much more ‘flexibility’ is given to the DWP ‘Decision Makers’ and overlooking the fact that the ‘Decision Makers’, by their own admission, are totally unqualified for the vast responsibility they have. (My emphasis.MS)
They are basic grade administrators, not medical administrators, and they are incapable of comprehending diagnosis, prognosis or the implications of long term drug use when using a combination of prescribed drugs. (See here and here) More and more DWP bureaucracy with more and more administration means more and more delays, increasing DWP errors and utter chaos with a system clearly in meltdown as more and more victims of this UK government suffer and die. (See here and here) (My emphasis.MS)
Guto Bebb (Column 442) demonstrated that he is very poorly briefed, and doesn’t appear to want to be better informed, claiming that the damning report by the National Audit Office was ‘disappointing’ but insisted that the policy aims were OK. Bebb still seems to think that any sick or disabled person not in paid employment is ‘unproductive’. This disabled researcher begs to differ and, if the MP reads the very detailed published reports (here and here) as accessed by academics at universities throughout the UK, he’d know how incorrect he is.
Dame Angela Watkinson (Column 445) also appears to be remarkably poorly informed, as were various other speakers in this poorly attended yet important debate, who continued to repeat government rhetoric whilst disregarding the detailed evidence that has exposed the realities behind the ‘reforms’ as paving the way for private insurance to replace the once-hallowed UK Welfare State.
Since being introduced by the Conservative Government in 1992, all UK Governments have used the second worst insurance company in America as “government advisers” on welfare reforms, and the dangerous and totally discredited WCA is the result. (See here and here)
Jim Sheridan’s comments (Columns 448,449) were especially welcome during the debate when making reference to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has replaced DLA: “Reference has already been made to the obsession with people receiving welfare benefits, but for those with money – the tax avoiders and evaders – life goes on as normal. If only a fraction of the resources used and the time spent on chasing down those on welfare benefits was diverted to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, some people might understand the rationale behind it.”… “When people finally hear about their assessments, there is not much hope. Only 15.4 per cent of new claims have received a decision, and only 12,654 of the 220,300 people who have made a new claim since April 2013 have been awarded some rate of PIP. A constituent of mine got in touch because her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Because there is a possibility that his treatment will work, giving him a life expectancy of up to five years, he has not been classed as terminally ill. He is not well enough to attend a medical assessment and so will have to wait longer for a home visit. It appears that letters from his GP, cancer doctor and cancer hospital are not enough to prove the seriousness of his illness.”… “Inclusion Scotland has highlighted the case of the father of an applicant who was told that they would have to wait at least 10 months for any kind of decision, and perhaps even for a first assessment. A constituent of mine who is undergoing cancer treatment has been told that the eight-week time frame given by DWP is an unrealistic amount of time in which to process an application and offer an assessment slot. When my staff called the MP’s hotline, they were told that they simply cannot process the number of applicants as there is not enough staff. They also say that most people who have applied for PIP will not be entitled to it, even before individual cases have been looked at. If that is the mindset of the staff processing the applications, it is hard to see how balanced decisions will be made.” (My emphasis. MS)
Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s comments during the debate were also very welcome (Columns 450 & 451) and highlighted the vital work of the disability support groups such as the Black Triangle Campaign: “The Government are looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Raising the bar on eligibility will not make anyone any less sick or any less disabled; it will just make it more difficult for them to function in society and place more pressure on those on whom they rely for their care and support”…. “One of the most profoundly disheartening experiences for me as an MP since being elected in 2010 has been the relentless way in which disabled and sick people have been vilified and stigmatised in the public discourse about welfare reform. Those who had very little responsibility for the financial collapse and subsequent economic problems have nevertheless had to carry the can. The attempt to discredit disabled people in order to justify harsh and punitive cuts in their already fairly paltry incomes is quite shameful. It appals me that the most disadvantaged have been asked to pick up the tab disproportionately for the profligacy of others. As we look to the future, we see further cuts of £12 billion, at least, promised in the years ahead. For disabled people in Scotland, the choice between two very different futures is opening up before them: one with decisions on welfare made in Scotland or one where further cuts slash their incomes even more. That choice must seem very stark indeed.” (My emphasis. MS)
The very experienced Labour MP, John McDonnell, who requested this Backbench Business debate, actually confirmed the involvement of Unum Insurance with the entirely bogus WCA (Column 426): “The work capability assessment was flawed from the start. It stemmed from the work of the American insurance company Unum, and the so-called biopsychosocial model of disability assessment. That was exposed as an invention by the insurance companies simply to avoid paying out for claims.” … “The staff employed in order to achieve that often had minimal medical or professional qualifications, and their expertise or experience was often totally unrelated to the condition or disability of the people they assessed.”… “Assessments largely disregarded people’s previous diagnosis, prognosis or even life expectancy. The recent Panorama programme Disabled or Faking It? exposed the scandal of seriously ill patients—people diagnosed with life-threatening conditions such as heart failure or endstage emphysema—being found fit for work. The so-called descriptors, or criteria, on which assessments are based bear no relation to the potential employment available, take little account of fluctuating conditions and are particularly unresponsive to appreciating someone’s mental health issues.” John also identified the utter absurdity of this Government, introducing yet another bogus assessment as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that will ‘replace’ DLA although it is likely to remove this additional support from the vast majority of the 3.5 million people in receipt of DLA.
Shockingly, the provision of a Motability long leased vehicle, as funded by the mobility component of the DLA, will now be removed from the majority of chronically disabled people who do work; thus actually preventing them from going to their place of work since they are physically unable to use public transport, which will dramatically and knowingly increase the numbers of disabled people not in paid employment. (Column 428) (My emphasis.MS)
No matter how many unnecessary tragedies are reported, or how many people die in utter despair and destitution, Conservative MPs like George Hollingbury will dismiss them all as ‘questionable’ results….and Alan Reid, for the Lib Dems, still actually claims to have had some positive function in a Government that helped sick and disabled people, whilst disregarding the horrors, the deaths, the suicides and the overwhelming evidence; including distinguished academic papers from UK universities, together with detailed reports by both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nurses. Reid accepts no responsibility for the nightmare he helped to create, blaming anyone except the Government he belongs to. He needs to read the detailed, referenced research to help him learn what the disability movement already know. As he talks nonsense, people die.
Reid complains about Atos whilst ignoring the fact that the DWP is complicit. Totally unqualified DWP ‘Decision Makers’, under any UK Government, are dangerous as they aren’t qualified; they can’t comprehend diagnosis or prognosis and hence they are a liability and constantly make incorrect decisions. Their decisions to remove benefits from genuine claimants are killing the innocent victims of this UK State tyranny. Their countless wrong decisions mean that people die, encouraged by this enthusiastic and very dangerous UK Government, who sit back and watch as the majority of people blame Atos Healthcare who are simply following the DWP contract by using the bogus Lima computer assessment to conduct the WCA, as required by the DWP. (My emphasis.MS)
Atos Healthcare doesn’t remove anyone’s benefits – a constant incorrect claim by many – as they don’t have the authority. All Atos staff can do is to decide if someone is ‘fit for work’ based on the results of a bogus imported computer assessment. Any other company in the same position would result in the same conclusions as that is how the computer software in designed, which is why the Lima software should be banished and this particular WCA cancelled. (My emphasis.MS)
By definition, DWP ‘Decision Makers’ actually make the decisions about welfare benefits. These totally unqualified administrators are required to consider all additional evidence provided by the claimant; including detailed letters from Consultants and GPs who know their patients very well. It is the incompetence of the unqualified DWP Decision Makers, who fail to comprehend the details of medical information and choose to accept any decision following the WCA, as conducted by Atos Healthcare, that makes these DWP staff so very dangerous to the most vulnerable people in the UK. Mandatory reconsiderations won’t help if the Decision Makers remain unqualified for the job. What better way is there to remove as many people as possible from welfare benefits than to employ totally unqualified staff to make these vital decisions? (My emphasis.MS)
Identified claimant suffering includes dramatic increases in the onset of mental health problems. The General Practice (GP) service is close to collapse due to overwhelming numbers of patients needing support with DWP paperwork, that limits GP time spent with other patients who are ill and the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) have both exposed the WCA as causing ‘preventable harm’ (as we have already seen). Yet this dangerous UK Government, with a Cabinet full of millionaires who fail to comprehend need, dismisses all other evidence regardless of source. They disregard the obvious fact that the ‘reforms’ are falling disproportionately onto chronically disabled people, and those who are very ill and in need of guaranteed long-term welfare benefits, as the Government sells the UK and transforms a once-great nation into UK plc. (My emphasis.MS)
In a now-infamous 2008 interview, Lord Freud claimed that he ‘couldn’t believe’ that anyone had been awarded a benefit ‘for life’, demonstrating the immense danger of permitting a former investment banker to have control of welfare spending when he fails to comprehend that many health conditions are permanent and do indeed last a lifetime. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee’s report of February 2013 regarding the DWP’s contract management of medical services was unlimited in its criticisms of the DWP: ‘Poor decision-making causes claimants considerable distress, and the position appears to be getting worse, with Citizens Advice reporting an 83 per cent increase in the number of people asking for support on appeals in the last year alone. We found the Department to be unduly complacent about the number of decisions upheld by the tribunal and believe that the Department should ensure that its processes are delivering accurate decision-making and minimizing distress to claimants.‘ (My emphasis. MS)
There were many powerful speeches in the historic WOW petition debate and it isn’t possible to highlight them all. However, one name in particular should be highlighted for the courage to expose the fact that, if a link could be proven, “…there would be a case for corporate manslaughter.” (Column 460) (My emphasis.MS)
I salute Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party for her courage and, in particular, for her condemnation of the official opposition for their total failure to offer detailed, significant support to this nation’s chronically sick and disabled people, with the new Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves MP, using her first interview to announce that she ‘…would be tougher on people on benefits’. (My emphasis.MS)
What a catastrophic announcement from the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions that, effectively, offers this nation’s most vulnerable people no hope if the Labour Party were to win the next General Election in 2015.
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It seems the government has found a way to dissuade GPs from letting patients opt out of having their medical records sold to private firms – the threat of penalties or even an investigation into the way they run their practice.
Vox Politicalrevealed earlier this month that the government is planning to make a profit from selling the private records of NHS patients in England to healthcare and pharmaceutical firms.
The records are said to be ‘anonymised’, but in fact anyone buying your details will be able to identify you.
The system, originally called the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES), now the Health and Social Care Information Centre, may also be described as the care.data scheme. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants you to think the information will be used for medical research and screening for common diseases, but in fact it could be used by private health companies as evidence of failures by the National Health Service, and could help them undercut NHS bids to continue running those services – accelerating the privatisation that nobody wanted.
Patients have the right to withhold their data, but they must specifically inform their medical practice of their wishes. This is why medConfidential created a web page containing a special opt-out form, along with a form letter in various formats, allowing patients to opt out themselves, their children and any adults for whom they are responsible.
Now GPs are living in fear of reprisals if they don’t deliver enough details to the new system.
According to GPonline.com, Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter failed to rule out penalising GP practices with a higher-than-average proportion of patients opting out of new NHS data sharing arrangements.
In a written answer to Labour MP and health select committee member Rosie Cooper, Dr Poulter also refused to say what level of patient opt-out from the scheme would trigger an investigation.
Asked whether practices would be penalised, who would investigate practices with a high opt-out rate, and at what threshold this would apply, Mr Poulter said: “NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre will work with the BMA, the RCGP, the Information Commissioner’s Office and with the Care Quality Commission to review and work with GP practices that have a high proportion of objections on a case-by-case basis.”
Ms Cooper took this as an admission that GPs were “being threatened and bullied into ensuring patients don’t choose to opt-out”.
Reacting on Twitter, NHS national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey ruled out fines for practices where large numbers of patients opt not to share data. He wrote: “Nobody is going to get fined if patients opt out.”
None of this offers a good reason for you to leave your medical records unprotected – in fact, it gives you more reasons to opt out than before, and might provide GPs with the excuse they need to retaliate.
Doctors have been pushed further and further by the Conservative-led government’s changes to the NHS. For example, they were told they would have a greater say in where the money went, as members of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), but that was not true – they don’t have the time to take part in such decisions so they have been handed over to firms that are often part of the private companies now offering services to the NHS (for a price).
Now they are being told they may face reprisals if they do not betray the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality.
But you can only push a person a certain distance before they push back.
How will NHS doctors in England respond?
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“It’s my policy and I’ll cry if I want to” – or is Jeremy *unt simply responding to criticism of his bid to climb on the anti-immigration bandwagon?
A speech by Iain Duncan Smith is immediately reminiscent of a wasp negotiating its way through a bulldog’s digestive system; there’s a lot of droning and implied pain, but through it all you know exactly what the outcome will be.
From this starting point, one may liken a speech by Jeremy Hunt to a hippo having an unhappy bowel movement as a result of an unwise dietary choice; much clumsy blundering in the wilderness and a fair amount of distress – which may be transferred to any poor creature unlucky enough to get in the way.
It seems that migrants and visitors from abroad who use the NHS are now facing the full onslaught of the Health Secretary’s metaphorical indigestion, with nary a bucket of Rennie in sight – except in this case the cure would be a set of reliable statistics covering the use of NHS services by our foreign-born friends.
Armed with new reports by independent firms Prederi and Creative Research, the Health Secretary (and well-known misprint) believes ‘health tourism’ is costing the NHS £2 billion every year – and has announced that he plans to claw back around £500 million of that money.
A BBC report states that ministers believe some of the spending is unavoidable but “it would be realistic to save a quarter. Savings would come from deterring so-called health tourism, recovering money owed by other countries and a levy on non-European temporary residents”.
But the cost of health tourism, as set out in the report, is tiny – at a maximum of £80 million it would be four per cent of the estimated total loss – and this is based on evidence which even one of the reports’ authors, Prederi, have admitted is incomplete. On its own, it could not possibly generate the saving demanded by the new policy, nor could it justify the claim that £2 billion is currently being lost.
That is not the point, though. This is about getting the NHS on the anti-immigration bandwagon.
The study has been released to coincide with the Immigration Bill, which (surprise, surprise) includes plans for a £200-per-person-per-year charge for temporary migrants to use the NHS during any stay lasting between six months and five years.
The Conservative-led Coalition government says this could recoup around £200 million per year, but this is clearly nonsense.
Put yourself in the position of a person from abroad, considering an extended stay in the UK. If an extra cost of up to £1,000 for a five-year stay was added to the trip, out of the blue, would you go ahead with it? Or would you consider other destinations?
Alternatively, if the trip could not be avoided, would this not make you more likely to use the NHS, in order to simply get your money’s worth? The trouble with this is that such a person would not know the cost of a consultation. According to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs committee, the cost of a single hospital outpatient appointment would equal the £200-per-year levy.
And then there is the administration cost. New Statesman revealed that the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Claire Gerada, has warned that the cost of administrating the new system could outweigh the savings, while also increasing public health problems such as TB by deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fall ill. This gives rise to the possibility that we are facing another Tory policy that could have deadly consequences for the population.
This is not a plan to deal with health tourism at all. This is an attempt by an increasingly-desperate Conservative Party to claw back some of the voters who have (themselves) migrated to UKIP because of fears that have been planted in their minds by political spin-doctors, rather than any real threat – the phantom problem of immigrants getting benefits they haven’t earned.
Health tourism is not costing the UK £2 billion a year, and the measures outlined by the government will not stop it, or save any lost money. If anything, it will cost the country millions of pounds.
But then, when has Jeremy Hunt bothered with the facts, when he can have his way simply by playing on people’s fears and manipulating their beliefs?
This is why reference was made, at the top of this article, to Iain Duncan Smith – another Tory minister who won’t let thousands of possible deaths interfere with his beliefs.
Prove who you are: Theresa May and David Cameron check the credentials of two police officers, to ensure they aren’t illegal immigrants. No, not really – but don’t be surprised if police checkpoints start appearing everywhere with people in peaked caps demanding your papers, just like in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s!
Experts say this will require a system of identity checks for everyone, requiring British citizens or those with permanent residence to prove that their own presence in the UK is legal.
In a move that seems designed to appease the Daily Mail and its readers, she wants banks to check the immigration status of people applying to open accounts, and private landlords to make similar checks on their tenants.
You will notice that this means the government wants other people to carry out its responsibilities.
The Home Secretary also intends to “streamline” the appeals process in immigration cases. Under the current government, this word generally means “make less fair”, and this is borne out by a passage stating the measures aim to “deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal later”. In such circumstances, how can we be sure they really are criminals?
There will also be a requirement for temporary migrants like overseas students to contribute towards NHS costs. This is not necessarily a bad thing – although it would be unfair if this money found its way to the private companies now infesting the NHS, rather than the public service itself.
But there will be no tightening of border controls, no “streamline” for bureaucratic deportation procedures, and no measures to tackle forced labour or lack of enforcement of the minimum wage.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper was quoted on the BBC website, saying: “The law must be on the side of people who respect it, not those who break it.” Fine words from the man who was unable to say whether flak-jacketed immigration officers had discriminated against people of ethnic minorities when they carried out their spot-checks at railway stations in August.
The BBC article also quotes Don Flynn of Migrants’ Rights Network, who reiterated that evidence contradicts the view that immigrants are attracted to the UK by benefits and free services; and Dr Richard Vautrey of the BMA, who said a system is already in place for hospitals to recover the cost of treating patients who are not eligible for NHS care – and introducing a system for GPs could be a “bureaucratic nightmare”.
The Guardian tells us the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) has warned Theresa May her plan, for millions of private landlords to face “proportionate” fines of up to £3,000 if they fail to conduct checks on the immigration status of new tenants and other adults living in their properties, is unworkable.
“British citizens, European economic area nationals and third country nationals alike would be required to produce identity documents at many turns in a scheme that would be intrusive, bullying, ineffective and expensive and likely racist and unlawful to boot,” said the ILPA response.
And the Residential Landlords Association said landlords would need to know about a potential 404 types of European ID documents, in order to operate the scheme – saying some landlords would refuse to house migrants, for fear of falling foul of the new rules – and isn’t that the point of the exercise?
The Guardian quotes Habib Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, who predicted that “these measures will divide society, creating a two-tier Britain, a return to the days of ‘No dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ and of ill people with no access to healthcare walking the streets of Britain. This bill is a travesty and must be stopped,” he said.
BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani tells us the ultimate goal is increased public confidence in the system.
But if we are doing all the work ourselves, why should this add up to increased confidence in the government?
The two-fingered salute: Jeremy *unt displays his high regard for the NHS patients whose details he wants to steal and sell to private business.
Conservatives. They think they own everything – including your medical records.
If you live in England, Jeremy ‘The Misprint’ *unt wants your doctor to send your confidential patient record to a national database, from which it will be sold on – sold on to make money for him, mark you – to “approved” private companies and also universities.
The system is called the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) – although exactly who it serves is entirely up for debate. You may also see it described as the care.data scheme.
He thinks this gross abuse of patient confidentiality is a good idea. But then, he’s a Tory and therefore thinks he has a God-given right to take anything, from anyone, if they have less filthy lucre than himself.
According to the Daily Mail – and you know the Tories have lost the plot when even the Heil weighs in against them – the *unt wants us to believe that the information will be valuable for medical research and screening for common diseases.
And an NHS England spokesman told the paper, “The programme will provide vital information to approved organisations about the quality of health services.”
So in fact this information could be used by private health companies as evidence of failures by the National, publicly-funded, service, yes?
How would it help in screening for common diseases? This information becomes freely available without any data having to be sold – how else would we know when an epidemic breaks out?
And how is this valuable for medical research – beyond the possibility that the now-infamous ‘job offer’ for people to take part in human medical experimentation may be targeted at particular individuals, according to medical records that they thought were only available to their own, trusted GP?
Doctors say Mr *unt and NHS England have failed in their duty to publicise the plan in a proper and reasonable way, that patients are not getting an “informed” choice about the matter, and that patients could be identified from the data with any information other than that on common conditions – which, we’ve already established, becomes public knowledge anyway.
Some Local Medical Committees (LMCs) are already discussing whether to opt out of the system – and this blog would urge all the others to do the same.
A community of the concerned – including people who are sick and disabled, carers, friends, families, and those who are perfectly healthy – has come together to launch a new resistance to the draconian Coalition welfare cuts that are killing, on average, 73 people every week.
The launch of the WOW (it stands for resistance to the ‘War On Welfare’) Petition comes only days after the Conservative Party started a ‘voodoo’ poll on its own website, intending to fool respondents into saying that the reforms already introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions – and soon to be reinforced with even more drastic measures – are fair.
“It breaks my heart that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being demonised and used as scapegoats. It’s something everybody needs to fight against.”
The petition calls for:
“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
“Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.
“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”
That may seem a big demand, but the alternative is potentially fatal for hundreds of thousands of people. Esther McVey, the Minister for Disabled People, has announced that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people will have their benefits cut or removed altogether. That is not an achievement.
In addition, anybody who can walk more than 20 metres will not receive the mobility element of the new benefit.
The petition has already won a huge online response, and I strongly encourage you to help build on that. Go to the site and sign the petition. Visit wowpetition.com (the petition’s base website) and join the discussion on the forum. Above all, ask your friends, relatives, work colleagues, or anyone else you think might be interested, to sign the petition.
It’s time to turn the tide against the persecution of the vulnerable.
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