Tag Archives: waiting time

New Tory NHS plan is to tell you your health problems are your fault

It all seemed so positive – until the facts got in the way.

Theresa May announced a new “long-term plan” (they like talking about long-term plans; remember their long-term economic plan that sank us into £1.7 trillion of debt?) for the NHS on Sunday. Here’s here Twitter feed:

And here’s the pretty video clip the Conservatives released to go with the announcement, full of empty slogans:

About the only concrete announcement was one we’d had already – that the NHS budget is to rise by £20bn a year above inflation by 2023, although a detailed explanation of how that funding will be provided has not been forthcoming. Last June, Mrs May said it would arise from increased taxes and the so-called “Brexit dividend” – an increase in available money due to the UK’s departure from the EU.

Unfortunately for her, simple mathematics has shown that this “Brexit dividend” is fictional.

So it seems unlikely that all of the aims Mrs May has laid out for the new 10-year plan will be met. They include:

  • Better mental health care, including round-the-clock advice from NHS 111 by 2023 and tailored services for young adults. Currently once someone in care turns 18 they are thrust into the adult system, often when they are not ready
  • Providing the best maternity care in the world by improving safety and providing greater mental health support for new parents. One in five new mothers struggles with mental health in the first year of her baby’s life
  • Greater control and choice in old age by expanding the use of personal budgets to allow people to decide what care they want, and greater support in the community so people do not end up in hospital
  • Better prevention and detection of disease – cancer is expected to be a key focus with an ambition to increase the number of early detections from one in two cancers to three in four, which in turn will improve survival
  • Increases in the NHS workforce – currently one in 11 posts is vacant
  • Bringing the NHS into the digital age, including online GP booking, prescriptions management and health records

Oh, and let’s not forget the promised improvements to social care, after that was brought under the control of the Department of Health. A Green Paper was promised in 2017 and still hasn’t appeared.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock set the real agenda in an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky:

He said the plan is to place the blame for poor health on patients.

Obviously he didn’t reveal it in such bald terms; this is the age of spin, of the ‘nudge’ unit, of propaganda. So he put it this way: “The whole purpose of the NHS over the next 10 years needs to shift towards helping people to stay healthy, as much as curing them when they’re ill.”

“Helping” people. Is that like the DWP “helping” people towards work by denying them the benefits their taxes have funded throughout their working lives, pushing them towards destitution (and in some cases prostitution) if they don’t accept low-pay, no-benefit, substandard excuses for jobs?

You see, we’ve heard these lines before.

And he said a key part would be making the public take responsibility for their own health.

I don’t know about you, but I do take responsibility for my own health, and I resent the implication that I don’t. I look after myself as well as I’m able, and only bother the National Health Service when I have persistent symptoms that are causing me significant problems, when I have contracted a disease that I can’t treat on my own, or after a serious accident or other emergency. I don’t think I am alone in this behaviour either.

My fear is that this will become the all-purpose excuse for failure to treat people properly, by the NHS’s ever-diminishing workforce. That’s Rick B’s diagnosis:


Going back to the DWP, think of the all-purpose excuse wheeled out every time a benefit claimant is found to have committed suicide, leaving evidence that they took their own life in despair over the way they had been treated by benefit assessors: “Suicide is very complex and it would be wrong to attribute it to just one cause.” You can see the Department of Health readying its own all-purpose statement: “Unfortunately this patient did not take responsibility for their own health.”

And it seems likely this will be used as a smokescreen to mask other failings in the health service.

Labour was quick to raise these issues in video clips of its own. Here’s one:

Wow. All those targets missed and 40,000 nurse positions vacant, along with 9,000 doctors.

What did Mr Hancock have to say about that? Nothing. He said they’d be covered in separate plans, although he did add that having 30,000 of the nursing vacancies handled by agency staff can be “fixed”. That seems extremely suspicious.

Also glossed over is the fact that nothing is said about the service’s failure to meet any of its targets regarding waiting times. Labour touched that nerve with another video clip, that also raises concerns about Tory plans to privatise the NHS altogether:

Again, the Tories have said they’ll publish plans to address overlong waiting times at a later date. It seems NHS bosses are unhappy about promising anything they cannot deliver.

As for privatisation – with more than £8 billion spent on private companies that have been allowed to buy into the NHS by the Conservatives since 2012, concern is high that the whole service in England is being primed for sale, to be replaced with a private insurance-based system, as poor as the schemes currently failing the citizens of the United States. These fears are supported by the fact that current NHS boss Simon Stevens used to work for a US-based health profiteer:


This new 10-year plan, it seems, is setting out to do exactly what Noam Chomsky described when discussing the steps leading to privatisation: Strip the service of funds, make sure it doesn’t work properly, wait for people to complain, and then sell it to private profit-making firms with a claim that this will improve the service.

It never improves the service.

Look at our railways – stripped of funds, sold off to private firms, and now owned by foreign companies that use them to make huge profits at our expense.

Look at our water companies. Look at our energy suppliers. Look at our airports. It’s the same story across the board.

So you can look forward to a future in which you are blamed for any health problem that arises, and forced to pay through the nose for health insurance (that probably won’t cover your needs or won’t pay out at all, to judge by the American system).

It seems the Tories’ 10-year plan for the NHS is to trick you into an early grave.

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Disabled Man Taking Health Secretary And NHS To Court Over Closures – Same Difference


Jeremy Hunt is facing an unprecedented High Court challenge over the potential closure of dozens of GP surgeries in inner-city areas, as the Government comes under increasing criticism for failing to bring down GP waiting times, according to the Same Difference blog.

The lawsuit, brought by a disabled Londoner whose surgery has warned patients it could close by April next year because of cuts to its government funding, claims that the NHS in England and the Health Secretary have acted unlawfully, by failing to take into account the impact of potential practice closures on deprived areas and on patients with disabilities.

You can read the rest of the article on Same Difference but one thing occurs to Yr Obdt Srvt, over here on Vox Political:

The Health and Social Care Act abolished the Health Secretary’s duty to provide a comprehensive service covering the whole of the country. If he gets out of this charge using that as an excuse, it will be an opportunity for campaigners to pinpoint the ‘postcode lottery’ aspect of the new Tory Private Health System in the run-up to next year’s General Election.

In other words, if he wins in the short term, let’s make sure he loses in the long run.

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Blame David Cameron for the catalogue of Conservative lies

Don’t expect Conservative ministers to do the honourable thing when they are found to have misled Parliament – it turns out they have ‘previous’ (or is it ‘form’?) in this regard.

Take a look at the YouTube clip above. It is from an April, 1994 episode of Have I Got News For You and refers to Nicholas Scott, then a minister of state for social security, who ‘talked out’ a private members’ bill aiming to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability.

On behalf of the Conservative government of the day, he made it his business to ensure that it would remain possible to discriminate against disabled people.

Asked if this was true, he denied it and – as the very young-looking Ian Hislop states in the clip – “he was lying, of course.”

Angus Deayton (remember him?) fleshes out the story: “John Major previously gave his word that any minister who knowingly misled his fellow MPs should be sacked… It sounds like John Major has knowingly misled his fellow MPs as well. Perhaps he should go sack himself.”

Of course Major stood by his minister – Scott was only doing what Major had told him!

In fact, Parliamentary convention has long held that anybody committing ‘contempt of Parliament’ by deliberately misleading fellow MPs may be suspended or expelled, as highlighted previously by this blog.

The clip makes it clear that Conservatives have been ignoring such rules for decades – and that the person to blame is usually the one at the top – John Major, back in the 1990s.



David Cameron, now.

This makes sense. Look at Iain Duncan Smith, who has loudly and continually fibbed his face off about his so-called “welfare reforms”, in spite of the mountain of evidence showing that tens of thousands of people have died because of them.

That is as discriminatory as a law can be.

Commenters on this blog, in their multitudes, have asked why Iain Duncan Smith has remained in his post after setting in motion the sequence of disasters that have hit the Department for Work and Pensions on his watch. Looking at the Scott/Major affair, we can deduce that the man we call RTU has not been ‘Returned To Unit’ (in this case, the backbenches) because he has been doing exactly what David Cameron wanted – victimising the disabled in the worst possible way.

What does this say about Cameron, whose own late son was disabled? Cameron claimed all the disability benefits he possibly could, before he became Prime Minister and ordered RTU to cancel them or change their eligibility criteria so that almost nobody could legitimately claim them.

Recent stories show that RTU is still victimising the disabled while his reaction to criticism is becoming increasingly unbalanced.

Meanwhile, Cameron has to answer for multiple offences of his own. Most recently he lied about waiting times in the English part of the National Health Service, but this article also highlights his false claim – in a party political broadcast – that the Coalition was “paying down Britain’s debts”, and the false claim that spending on the NHS had risen in real terms since the Coalition took office.

What conclusion can we draw from this? It’s obvious, really.

Your Conservative-led Coalition government has been lying to you. It is lying to you now. It will lie to you in the future.

This is not in the national interest. How can it be in the national interest for the government to pass laws that harm the disabled – and to pass laws that could harm the sick by delaying medical aid – and then lie to you to keep you quiet?

It is ideologically-motivated cruelty. Nothing more.

It will continue as long as your vote supports it.

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Frustration as MPs say calls to government departments are ‘too expensive’

[Picture: This Is Money]

[Picture: This Is Money]

That’s frustration for the Coalition government, not the public (for a change).

If you’ve ever had to telephone a government department, you probably know that it is about as hard as the private company operating the service can make it. This is to enable that company to screw as much money as possible out of you before you have said a single word to a government employee.

The system is set so that there is only a small number of rings before a machine picks up – this is when they start charging you – and a recorded voice lists a series of options, from which you may choose. Then you wait.

And wait.

They provide music for you to… enjoy, but this is interrupted at 20- or 30-second intervals by another recorded voice telling you that all operators are busy but your call is important.

After a non-specific length of time, a human being comes on the line and tells you that they can’t deal with your problem but will put you through to someone who can. Then its back to the music, interrupted by the recorded voice.

I have no idea what happens after that. I do not have the disposable cash to pay through the nose for the privilege of listening to ‘The Four Seasons’ being ruined. If I want to hear classical music, I’ll get Spotify or – Luddite that I am – spin a CD.

Currently, whenever I receive correspondence saying I should telephone a government department, I respond with a letter. Now that Royal Mail is privatised, I suppose I shall have to find another alternative when prices start to rocket.

Fortunately, it seems Margaret Hodge and the Commons Public Accounts Committee have taken note of the problem and action is being proposed, after it was revealed that people have been paying around £56 million to speak to government departments on premium rate phone lines.

How did they find out? Was it brought to their attention because of the high volume of ‘abusive’ messages from clients who had been told their calls were being recorded, but who still ended up screaming that they had been waiting forever, the call had already cost them the national debt of a small developing country and their spouse and family had given up and left them – most probably for a telephone company executive?

Sadly, this isn’t even news. It was reported in December 2012 that calls to HM Revenue and Customs had left customers paying £33 million a year. Somebody calling from a mobile would have spend £1.92 if they waited the average length of time on hold – and that is before anyone dealt with their query.

According to the BBC, the committee found that one-third of Whitehall numbers used by the public were higher-rate – including those for benefit, victim support and tax inquiries.

This higher rate means calls can cost 10.5p per minute. With the average call costing 56p, this means calls from landlines can last around five minutes and 20 seconds and we can deduce from our own experiences that most people are unlikely to have actually spoken to anybody human at all.

It seems possible, therefore, that the government telephone system – certainly that used by the DWP – is designed, not as a service to “customers” (their word), but as a means of keeping them away. Not only that, but it also seems designed to fleece them of as much money as possible while doing so.

“Customers of government services should be able to contact those services easily and cheaply,” the BBC article quotes Mrs Hodge. “Charging customers higher rates… is not acceptable, especially when the customers are often vulnerable people.”

There was also criticism that calls took too long to answer.

In response, the Department for Work and Pensions has said it will offer a choice between 0845 and 0345 numbers, allowing callers to choose the cheapest line. I’m willing to bet it won’t tell callers which line that is. Also, it will be massively over-used, leading to longer queues, so people will end up paying just as much.

You’ll have noted that nothing was said about cutting down waiting times.

Consumer group Which? wants public bodies and companies to provide either freephone or local rate numbers for customer service and complaints lines, saying it is “ridiculous” to force a huge bill on people, especially when they have to wait on hold.

It isn’t ridiculous if the phone service has been contracted out to a private company, though – as seems to be the case with the DWP, at the very least.

In that circumstance, it’s a money-spinner – one that is about to peter out, if Mrs Hodge gets her way. That’s why this is frustrating for the government.

How many Conservative MPs have financial interests in the Telecoms industry?