It seems that Jeremy Misprint Hunt is trying to pretend that his planned law making it easier to close good hospitals to prop up bad ones (and boost private health firms in the process) is happening because “Conservatives genuinely care about the NHS”.
Writing in The Guardian, he tells us that Clause 118 of the Care Bill currently on its way through Parliament – the so-called Hospital Closure Clause, “is necessary because we need the power to turn around failing hospitals quickly and – in extremis – put them into administration before people are harmed or die unnecessarily.
“The process has to happen quickly, because when a hospital is failing lives can be put at risk. That is why it matters so much – and why, in opposing it, Labour are voting to entrench the failures they failed to tackle.”
For information, Clause 118 was included in the Bill after Mr Hunt lost a legal battle to close services at the successful and financially solvent Lewisham Hospital in order to shore up the finances of the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust, which was losing more than £1 million every week after commissioning new buildings under the Private Finance initiative.
The private firms that funded this work were apparently charging huge amounts of interest on it, meaning that SLHT would never be able to clear its debt.
PFI was introduced by the Conservative government of 1979-97 and, sadly, continued by the Labour government that followed it.
It seems likely that it will contribute to the absorption of many NHS trusts by the private sector, as the effects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 take hold.
Clause 118 means the Health Secretary will be able to close successful local hospitals in England on the pretext of helping neighbouring trusts that are failing – without full and proper consultation with patients and the public, or even agreement from the (in name alone) GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups.
The resulting, merged, organisation could then be handed over to private firms who bid to run the service at a price that is acceptable to the government.
So it seems that this is a plan to speed up the process of privatisation, rather than anything to do with caring about the NHS.
It seems to me that Mr Hunt is trying to lull the public into false security by claiming the NHS is safe, in exactly the same way his forerunner as Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, provided assurances before Parliament passed his nefarious Health and Social Care Act.
Mr Lansley said his law would increase the range of choice available to patients (it doesn’t; in fact, it increases the ability of service providers to choose which patients they treat, on the basis of cost rather than care); he said GPs would be able to commission the services they need for their patients (in practice, they don’t; the running of the new Clinical Commissioning Groups has been handed over primarily to private healthcare consultants, many of which are arms of private healthcare providers, creating a conflict of interest that is conspicuously never mentioned); and he said that CCGs would be able to choose who provides services on the basis of quality (they can’t; if they restrict any service to a single provider, they risk legal action from private healthcare firms on the grounds that they are breaching competition rules).
Mr Lansley lied about all those matters; it seems Mr Hunt is lying about this one.
Or am I mistaken?
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