Care: the head of NHS England says he wants change but who can hope that it will be for the better?
I have a doubt about Simon Stevens’s sincerity.
He has come forward to say that the government needs to put an adequate funding system in place for social care within the next year.
This suggests that he supports public funding of this service.
But Simon Stevens, formerly a UnitedHealthcare CEO, has been a major player in privatising huge parts of the National Health Service in England – so I’m not convinced that he’s being straight with us.
Remember the big land sell-off following the Naylor Review? Remember the NHS Long-Term Plan that did nothing to shorten waiting lists or relieve pressure on Accident & Emergency departments and seemed geared towards blaming you if you suffer from poor health?
And now this man wants to sink his claws into the social care system – with the failures of care during the Covid-19 crisis as the perfect excuse.
I do not trust him. I certainly don’t trust the Tories.
They have been de-funding social care for years; they have been allowing poor employment practices that allowed Covid-19 into care homes to kill residents for years.
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Chris Whitty: the Chief Medical Officer has now self-isolated with symptoms of the coronavirus himself. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with his ideas?
Those of you who have been following This Site over the past few days will have read article after article exposing the failures of the Conservative government – firstly to anticipate, then to combat the coronavirus crisis.
So it should come as no surprise that these failures have ensured that NHS workers and people who contract Covid-19 will die, who should be saved.
And the pedigree of the man making that claim should not be doubted: Richard Horton is the editor of what is possibly the most highly-regarded medical journal of them all: The Lancet.
He said measures implemented “far too late” had left the NHS “wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients”.
As a result, it had been plunged into “chaos and panic”, with patients and NHS staff condemned to “die unnecessarily”.
He pointed to an article in The Lancet, already referenced by This Site, stated on January 24 that the coronavirus was on the verge of becoming a global pandemic and urged the government to ensure that the NHS was prepared.
But Boris Johnson and his government didn’t bother. Successive Conservative governments over the previous 10 years had systematically dismantled the UK’s capability of tackling a pandemic like Covid-19.
The strategy to deal with it was last updated in 2011 and is hopelessly out-of-date.
The dedicated government Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team, tasked with tackling this type of crisis, vanished around 2011.
The crucial document for getting the right messages to the public – the Communications Strategy – was written in 2012 and is wildly inaccurate in its assumptions about how and where people now get their information.
Worst of all, the government guide to dealing with the fatalities of a pandemic – the deaths – was written in 2008 and had never been updated.
Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the Conservative government’s response to coronavirus – throughout February – was wrong.
The Lancet article warned that “preparedness plans should be readied for deployment at short notice, including securing supply chains of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, hospital supplies and the necessary human resources”. But this warning was ignored.
Mr Horton lays the blame for this on Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Chief Executive Officer of the NHS in England Simon Stevens and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.
Vallance’s was the mind behind the ridiculous “herd immunity” scheme to allow us all to become infected and if millions of vulnerable people died, that was a reasonable price to pay if the rest developed a resistance to the virus.
It didn’t last long but valuable days were wasted and, of course, while the overarching strategy was “do nothing”, nothing was being done to make the UK ready to fight the disease.
And when the government finally adopted an acceptable approach, the NHS was caught unprepared.
It didn’t have pharmaceutical supply chains ready – note the call for volunteers to ship medicines where they’re needed.
It didn’t have the necessary human resources.
And it didn’t have personal protective equipment, despite protestations to the contrary. As part of his article, Mr Horton called on England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries, to apologise to health workers for saying the UK has “a perfectly adequate supply of PPE” and supply pressures had been “completely resolved” on March 20.
She was wrong, and it means doctors are risking their own health, if not their lives, every day by having to assess patients with respiratory symptoms, without the equipment necessary to protect themselves.
Worse still, the government didn’t follow basic World Health Organisation (WHO) advice. According to Mr Horton: “They didn’t isolate and quarantine. They didn’t contact trace. These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: all the way down the line, Boris Johnson and his government have had to be dragged into doing the right thing – always late and never willingly.
Already more than 1,000 people have been acknowledged to have died.
And it seems clear that more will follow – who would have lived if Mr Johnson and his ministers, their advisors and the leaders of the NHS had simply done their jobs properly.
Gove: he always looks a little gobsmacked but his response to this question has to be seen.
It was a stroke of genius: a simple question from the press that skewered Michael Gove and NHS boss Simon Stevens over cuts to the health service since 2010.
Andy Woodcock, editor of The Independent, used a televised press conference to ask whether the government regretted cutting the number of NHS beds and failing to increase the number of nurses.
It was a valid question, because the NHS has lost more than 11,000 beds since 2010 as a result of Tory cuts and closures. Last I heard, private health providers were set to make £2.4 million per day by renting 8,000 beds to the public provider.
Why not just nationalise them, as has been done in other countries?
And Brexit alone has cost the UK 10,000 nurses since 2016.
You can watch the video on Skwawkbox to see the response – stunned silence from Gove and stumbling dissembling from Stevens.
This is exactly the kind of question that the press should have been asking the Tory governments of the last few years, but haven’t.
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NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens [Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA].
Here’s the apparent situation: Philip Hammond has been caught giving the NHS far less than it needs (by This Site, among others, I’m sure), so he uses Simon Stevens as a scapegoat.
The NHS is still £2.4 billion short of the funding it needs.
And you’ll notice from the words below that Jeremy Hunt was apparently bidding for only £3 billion of extra funding, rather than the £4 billion that experts say is needed (at least).
So it seems that, not only did the Health Secretary deliberately endanger lives by requesting less funding than is required, but the Chancellor then more-than-doubled the danger to NHS patients by slashing even that amount – almost in half.
End result: The NHS gets just two-fifths of the conservative (ha ha) estimate of what it needs…
And we have evidence that the Conservative government is intentionally putting patients’ lives at risk.
This Writer would strongly urge staff at every NHS hospital to start recording details of patients who lose their lives because operations are delayed.
Mr Hammond might think he was clever to reprimand Mr Stevens in this way but let’s see how much he enjoys a corporate manslaughter charge.
Philip Hammond backtracked on plans to give the NHS more money than it eventually got in the budget after reacting with “fury” to its boss Simon Stevens’s public demand for an extra £4bn next year.
The chancellor viewed Stevens’s plea, in which he urged ministers to deliver on leave campaigners’ promise of £350m a week more for the NHS, as “very, very unhelpful” when he was facing so many pleas from other services for cash.
At the time of Stevens’s speech on 8 November, Hammond had already begun discussions with the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over his formal pre-budget request that the NHS in England be given a £3bn uplift for 2018-19.
But sources close to the talks say that both Hammond and Treasury officials felt that the NHS England chief executive’s move meant that the chancellor could not be seen to be acceding to what they saw as “overt public blackmail”.
“At the point when everyone else was clamouring for more money, if he gave in then to the NHS’s claim for £4bn, what was he going to say to everyone else? If Stevens hadn’t intervened the NHS would have got more. Giving in to the NHS would have made it really hard to resist everyone else who wanted more money,” said one source with knowledge of events.
Iris Ann Day died after a life-saving operation was cancelled three times.
Is this the “good news of the National Health Service” that Theresa May was applauding at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (November 15)?
Jeremy Corbyn had pointed out that last week, the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, wrote: “The budget for the NHS next year is well short of what is currently needed.”
He said: “The A&E waiting time target has not been met for two years. The 62-day cancer waiting time target has not been met since 2015. So, again, can the Prime Minister spend the next week ensuring that the Budget does give sufficient funding to our NHS to meet our people’s needs?”
Mrs May responded scornfully:
“Yes, let us look at what Simon Stevens says about the national health service: ‘The quality of NHS care is demonstrably improving…Outcomes of care for most major conditions are dramatically better than three or five or ten years ago.’
“He said: ‘What’s been achieved in England over the past three years? More convenient access to primary care services…First steps to expand the primary care workforce…Highest cancer survival rates ever…Big expansion in cancer check-ups.’
“And: ‘Public satisfaction with hospital inpatients…at its highest for more than two decades.’
“That is the good news of our national health service.”
Those words ring hollow now.
And what will Mrs May do, now that we know she was talking utter claptrap at PMQs?
I’ll tell you: Absolutely nothing.
She couldn’t care less about a poor person’s dead baby.
A six-month-old baby girl suffering from a heart defect died after a life-saving operation was cancelled three times due to a lack of beds, an inquest heard.
Iris Ann Day was born with Down Syndrome and an atrio-ventricular septal defect – a hole in her heart which causes blood to flow around it.
The condition was discovered when her mother Hannah was 36 weeks pregnant, when doctors said she would need surgery at around three months old.
It was arranged under the care of Evelina London Children’s Hospital but put back on three occasions – once because of a lack of beds at the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Iris died on December 2 2016, just hours after her parents were told she was “stable and settled”.
Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are the Tory fools who have created the crisis in the English NHS. Tell them they are to blame. Tell them they should resign now.
The more I think about the unreasonable comments and demands made by Theresa May and her health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the less acceptable they seem.
We are told senior GPs could resign in huge numbers because Mrs May has irrationally chosen to scapegoat them for the humanitarian crisis sweeping the National Health Service in England. But why should they?
Surely we can all see where responsibility really lies?
The Conservatives aren’t responsible for the NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and those countries aren’t experiencing any crisis – except possibly where their services are reliant on facilities based in England.
The Conservatives are responsible for the NHS in England, and it is in England that the crisis has occurred.
Therefore Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are responsible for causing the current crisis; so Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt should resign.
Why are high-profile politicians and medical leaders not already demanding their heads on a plate?
Theresa May seems keen to blame anybody but herself – she tried to pin the crisis on the elderly before claiming that A&E departments are buckling because she thinks GPs are lazy.
Enough is enough.
Whenever Mrs May, Mr Hunt or any other Tory (with the exception of Dr Sarah Wollaston, who has spoken up for the NHS, thereby proving she is in the wrong political party altogether) tries to run down the NHS, its doctors, nurses, specialists, workers or users, let’s just tell them:
“No. You are to blame. Resign.”
It’s a simple message, and easy to repeat.
Put it out there a few times and even our Tory-loving mass media might get the hang of it.
“Let’s not rewrite history,” said NHS England chief Simon Stevens – but Theresa May has tried to do exactly that.
She knows perfectly well that he said the NHS in England would need between £8 billion and £21 billion in order to sustain the service up to 2020.
Her claim that, by giving the service £10 billion over six years, she is providing more than was requested is a lie.
That’s £8.4 billion over five years – the absolute lowest end of the scale presented by Mr Stevens.
It takes no account of cuts to social care, closed walk-in centres, closed pharmacies, limited availability of GP appointments – all caused by Tory mismanagement.
More money than the NHS requested would be at least £22 billion.
And the fact is that Tory cuts to the English health service will amount to nearly £40 billion – including the extra £8.4 billion – by 2020.
Theresa May is a liar and should resign because her lies are threatening people’s lives. Jeremy Hunt is a liar and should resign for the same reason.
The claim: The NHS is being given more money than it asked for.
Reality Check verdict: The amount that the NHS in England is being given over this Parliament is at the bottom end of the range that it asked for. It doesn’t take into account the knock-on effects of shortfalls in other areas such as social care.
“We asked the NHS to work out what it needed over the next five years in terms of… the funding it would need,” Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News on Sunday.
“We gave them more funding then they required.”
But NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens denied this on Wednesday.
Mr Stevens has made clear that when he mentioned the £8bn figure, that was the minimum amount needed just to plug the funding gap.
But this figure is not enough to keep pace with rising demand, improve services or accommodate plans for seven-day services.
Speaking to NHS leaders last June, he said: “Let’s not rewrite history.
“In the Forward View, we actually said that the National Health Service would need between £8bn and £21bn by 2020 in order to sustain and improve.”
Even as the UK erupts in protest at the government’s neglect of the NHS, the Tory privatisation plan is working, it seems.
The crisis has created a perception that the public health service is unable to cope. Private firms can capitalise on this – and don’t forget that more private contracts are being offered up for NHS work, every day. Here’s the latest:
In the middle of an NHS Crisis, the Tories are still offering chunks of your NHS to private health. This for exmaple https://t.co/AdpD4hagsC
It’s for an ‘integrated urgent care service’ (whatever that may be), offered by Kernow CCG (in Cornwall?) and is worth nearly £50 million.
It should be remembered that private healthcare will not offer treatment for the most complicated, long-term conditions; the people who need it most. Instead, they take contracts that draw funding away from their treatment.
And the ‘crisis’ narrative gains momentum – but it lacks one major element.
The only reason there is a humanitarian crisis in the NHS is underfunding by the Conservative Party in government. They will have inflicted nearly £40 billion of cuts by 2020, and have already passed on around £20 billion of funding to private companies, much of which will be transferred to shareholders’ bank accounts as profit, rather than having anything to do with treatment of illness.
The bureaucratic cost of private involvement alone is astronomical.
Yet Theresa May tried to blame the crisis on the increase of elderly patients, in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
In fact, decades of ward closures have led to the bed crisis. Bed-to-population ratios are worse than in some eastern European countries. Funding of the NHS, in total, is well below the EU average. But Mrs May keeps rattling on about a “strong economy” being the answer. Didn’t Philip Hammond say our economy is the strongest in the developed world, during his Autumn Statement last year? Yes, he did.
I am sick of hearing Tories say a strong economy will help the NHS. Utter nonsense. It needs funding to the EU average @DLidington#bbcqt
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].
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.
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.'”
“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?
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.
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