NHS Doctors Now Required to Ask Patients to Use Private Health Insurance

I’ve been putting off looking at some of the NHS stories Mike’s posted up over at Vox Political, on the grounds that the Tory and New Labour privatisation of the Health Service makes me both extremely depressed and absolutely boiling mad. But the issue’s far too important to leave alone.

Today Mike posted up a little snippet from The Canary, which reported that NHS chiefs are now asking doctors to politely ask their patients if they have private health insurance. If they answer ‘yes’, the doctor is supposed to gently remind them to use it. The Canary states that this signals the end of the NHS, and universal free healthcare.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/06/theres-a-question-doctors-are-now-being-urged-to-ask-patients-and-it-signals-the-end-of-the-nhs-the-canary/

Absolutely, and it’s what over three decades of right-wing administrations have wanted going all the way back to Maggie Thatcher. Despite her protestations in her autobiography, she really was considering privatising the NHS. She discussed it with the cabinet and Douglas Hurd, nearly provoking a rebellion. This wasn’t because her cabinet believed in the NHS. They just saw the writing on the wall and knew that if she went ahead, that would be the end of the Tory party at the next election. She also decided against it after she sent her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, to the States. He came back and told her precisely how dreadful the American system was.

Nevertheless, she still stated that she wanted a greater role for private medicine, and enacted policies designed to encourage people to take out private health insurance. She wanted 25 per cent of the population to have it, and was disappointed when very few in actual fact did so. Amongst the newspapers pushing this policy was the Express, which published a long piece raving about how those with such insurance should have tax cuts in its Sunday edition.

The privatisation of the NHS continued with the Tories’ introduction of the PFI and the expansion of the scheme and break up the NHS by Tony Blair’s New Labour. Hospitals have been taken out of the bureaucratic structure of the NHS and encouraged to become self-financing. They’ve also been handed over to private management, and the clinics and walk-in centres set up by New Labour were also intended to be privately managed. Well over half of all operations are now carried out by private healthcare firms. The Care Commissioning Groups, which were introduced with loud noises about giving doctors the power to run their own practices are able to commission private healthcare firms to contract for services, and can themselves raise money through private finance. This was taken over by the Tories, and has been expanded even further. At the last parliament, I reposted a meme that showed just how many Tory and Lib Dem MPs had connections to private healthcare firms hoping to profit from the demise of the NHS. It was a lot – about or over 100, if I recall correctly. The Angry Yorkshireman and Mike have also reported comments by Jeremy Hunt, the current health minister, and other Tories attacking the NHS. Hunt, or one of them, has described it as ‘an abomination’. My guess is that this anger probably comes from the Tory hatred of having to pay for public services, which they almost personally resent as the state forcing them to pay for someone’s else’s benefit. I also believe they despise it because it’s a state-run service, and so excludes them for profiting. It’s why Peter Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative all those decades ago when John Major was in power: he wanted to find a way to open up the NHS to private investment.

And now New Labour and the Tories are moving another step closer to the final privatisation of the health service. This is being done through a manufactured financial crisis. Blair and Brown did much damage to the NHS, but when they left office it was in budget and did not need further reform. That has changed, due not least to Jeremy Hunt. Even now, Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS state that the problem isn’t that the NHS is underfunded – it’s that NHS funds are being squandered and misdirected due to the introduction of private enterprise into the service. The bureaucracy in these firms and their shareholders profit, while soaking up money that would otherwise go to providing services.

The privatisation of the NHS is a national scandal. There are activist groups pledged to defending it, like the NHS Action Party and doctors’ groups and organisations. These and their on-line addresses can be found in Davis’ and Tallis’ book.

At one time the assaults on the NHS would have resulted in a wave of strikes, public protests and demonstrations. But the Tories have all but destroyed the unions, and cowed the public with a mixture of massive debt and job insecurity. And it’s going to get worse when Brexit takes effect.

Don’t let the mass media deceive you with the pro-Tory, pro-New Labour bias. When you read the papers attacking Jeremy Corbyn and praising Theresa May, just like the Beeb does on TV with Laura Kuenssberg, remember that these are the policies Smith in the Labour party, and his backers Benn et al, and the Tories stand for. Corbyn has said that he wants to renationalise the NHS, and that’s too much for the Tories and Blairite corporatists. These people should be thrown out of power as quickly as possible, before more people die or are harmed by their greed and mendacity.

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