Tag Archives: South London Healthcare Trust

Is Jeremy Hunt trying to fool us with the same con trick, all over again?

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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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Confused Tories don’t understand what the term ‘health service’ means

Bad for your health: If you don't have time to read the full article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Bad for your health: If you don’t have time to read the whole article, this Martin Rowson cartoon from The Guardian provides the full picture.

Yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt.

“What day ever is?” I hear you cry. Good point, well made.

Yesterday was worse than usual. Not only did the High Court tell him thathis plan to penalise Lewisham Hospital for the failings of a neighbouring health trust was illegal, but the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that right-to-die campaigners did not have the right to ask doctors to end patients’ lives.

Mr Misprint was found to have been acting outside his powers as Secretary of State for Health, and in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006, when he announced his plan to close or substantially downgrade casualty and maternity services at Lewisham.

Mr Justice Silber said that the decision of the Trust Special Administrator – which was the first made under new, Conservative, health service guidance – was also unlawful.

And he referred to yet another spectacular Parliamentary lie by David Cameron. He’s really racking those up, now, isn’t he? In this one, he told Dame Joan Ruddock, “What the Government and I specifically promised was that there should be no closures or reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners, unless there was proper public and patient engagement and unless there was an evidence base. Let me be absolutely clear: unlike under the last Government when these closures and changes were imposed in a top-down way, if they do not meet those criteria, they will not happen.”

Unfortunately for his reputation, it took a High Court judge to make sure that this guarantee was carried out. Liar Cameron would have pushed the unlawful measure through, even though none of the conditions he described had been met.

Of course the consequence would have been a reduced, substandard hospital service for people living in or near Lewisham – not because the hospital itself was poorly run (it wasn’t) but because the neighbouring South London Healthcare Trust has been haemorrhaging more than £1 million every week. The decision was made with an eye on costs, and with no regard for the effect on people’s health or lives.

Meanwhile, over in the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, upheld a ruling that the late Tony Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life, and neither did fellow right-to-die campaigner Paul Lamb.

The perverse aspect of this is the possibility that they would have got what they wanted – if they had only kept their mouths shut.

Readers may think what follows is in bad taste, or out-of-turn, but it seems that every family in the country has a story in which they suspect doctors of “switching off” a loved one.

From my own family, I can think of two occasions without even trying: One was an uncle with a long-term illness. His wife (my aunt) cared for him but, being a senior citizen herself, she reached a point where she needed to take a break, and booked him into a respite care home. He didn’t survive the experience.

The other was another uncle with a terminal illness who was on painkillers which could kill him if a wrong dosage was applied. We don’t know that this is what led to his death – just as we don’t know what happened in the respite home. But on the face of it, the circumstances are questionable.

All of the above leads us to conclude that yesterday was not a good day to be Jeremy Hunt. You can be sure he was unhappy about it, too.

Picture the scene if you can: The Cabinet room, during a tea break. Various Tories are lounging around, sucking down on some of the plasma they privatised the other week, while Mr Hunt declares: “It isn’t fair! Iain’s policies get to kill hundreds of people every we- sorry, dozens. dozens of people every week – and I can’t even top one or two who want it? What’s the world coming to?”

What indeed. Perhaps Mr Hunt should remember he’s the Secretary of State for Health. It’s in his job title that he should be preserving health, not destroying it.

And money – filthy lucre – should be his last concern!