Archive for the ‘Hospitals’ Category

The Grim Implications for Britain of Chelsea Clinton and her Book on Global Health

February 27, 2017

In this short video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Stef Zamora and Rob Placone, rip into the New York Times for publishing a bit of non-news from Chelsea Clinton. She’s the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton, and the NYT saw fit to publish on its pages a tweet from her, saying that the she read Fahrenheit 451 in 7th grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable. It’s widely considered that Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to follow her parents into politics. That’s the message that Dore, Placone and Zamora got from this tweet. They feel it’s a puff piece for her. And so did several of the NY Times’ readers. One Mr Flugennock tweeted back that the newspaper should come off it, as ‘we aren’t going to vote for her’. Accompanying this was a photo of Clinton junior with the caption, ‘Mommy, your clothes fit me now.’

Indeed they do. Both Chelsea and her vile parents seem to be highly critical of state medicine. During her election campaign last year, Killary declared that single-payer healthcare was ‘utopian’. As Dore and the other left-wing American newscaster repeatedly pointed out, it’s a utopian institution that every other country in the developed world has, except America. And Chelsea seems to think the same thing. I distinctly remember her saying something sneering and dismissive about socialised medicine or single-payer health care a few years ago.

Dore, Placone and Zamora joke about the essentially vapid content of the tweet. Zamora commented that she also read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Zeuss in the 1st Grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable about green eggs. Rather more seriously, Dore remarks on her comments seem to suggest that she expected to feel more comfortable with age about the book’s dark subject matter. Fahrenheit 451 is one of SF and Fantasy author Ray Bradbury’s classic novels, alongside The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. The book takes its name from the temperature at which paper burns. It’s a dystopian book, set in a future where a despotic government has banned literature and reading. In this world, firemen are people, who start firesm not put them out, consigning books and learning to the flames. Of course it’s a disturbing book. It follows the real life burning of subversive literature by oppressive regimes and movements, like Nazi Germany. It’s why Dore also makes a heavily ironic joke about not getting used to the Holocaust either.

The NY Time’s also mentions that Chelsea Clinton has also co-authored a book herself. This is Governing Global Health, an ‘unbiased’ book, which examines public-private healthcare partnerships around the world, and looks forward to them becoming increasingly important in tackling world health. Dore, Zamora and Placone miss the serious undertones for this, joking instead about its supposed connection to Clinton’s comments about Bradbury’s masterpiece. This is supposed to have disturbed her so much, she wrote a book of her own.

But Clinton fille’s authorship of this tome has serious and very ominous overtones for state healthcare elsewhere in the world, and most immediately in Britain. Public-Private Partnerships are basically the Blairite ‘Third Way’, which they in turn inherited from the Tories’ foul Peter Lilley. This capering bigot was upset that private enterprise was locked out of the NHS, and so created the Private Finance Initiative. This is where the state bales out and subsidies private firms for building and managing NHS hospitals. It’s more expensive, and so the hospitals built under it are fewer and smaller. Even worse, perfectly efficient and excellent state hospitals have had to be closed, so that Blair and the Tories could provide more lucrative work for their friends in private healthcare.

Blair took over the Clinton’s electoral strategy and their corporatist, anti-working class ideology and injected it into the Labour party. Bill Clinton’s campaign was based on rejecting the Democrats traditional base in the working class, and abandoning what little welfare provision there was, in order to win votes from Reaganite Republicans. And the policy’s continued under Obama and Shrillary. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats, famously stated last year that he wasn’t concerned if they lost blue collar voters, as for every one they lost, they’d pick up two or three suburban Republicans. This is the same attitude that infects Blairite Labour. Blair, Mandelson, Broon and Campbell targeted affluent swing voters in marginal constituencies, sacrificing the interests of the working class in order to appeal to middle class Thatcherites. The policy didn’t work, and is creating massive poverty. But the corporatist elite love it, and so the Clintonites in America and Blairites over here are still pushing it.

And just as Blair took over the Clintonite free market ideology, the same corporate interests that infest American politics also came over her to win contracts in healthcare, the prison system and other parts of the state infrastructure. Companies like the notorious health insurance fraudster, Unum. The American private healthcare companies realised that the market in America was in serious trouble, due to rising costs. There was an excellent article in Counterpunch a month or so ago, which reported that in some areas it almost broke down before being rescued by Obama’s affordable care act. With the market in America glutted and sinking, they’ve come over here to win contracts from our NHS. And our politicos have been stupid and malignant enough to give them to them.

I think Dore and co. are right. Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to succeed her parents. And as a believer in private healthcare, she does want to push the privatisation of our NHS for the profit of her country’s private healthcare firms. She has to be stopped. If she enters politics to push her vile agenda, it’ll be bad for America and terrible for Britain and our NHS. Keep her – and them – out of politics and out of Britain.

Lem’s Robots and Marvin the Paranoid Android

February 15, 2017

lem-pic

Polish SF Maestro Stanislaw Lem

Remember Marvin, the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? He was the manically depressed robot with a brain the size of a planet, who also suffered from a terrible pain in the diodes all down his left side. I was reminded of him yesterday when reading one of the short stories in Stanislaw Lem’s Mortal Engines (Harmondsworth: Penguin 2016.

Lem’s a highbrow Polish SF writer, who uses his fiction to explore deep philosophical issues, sometimes stretching and challenging the conventions of the short story form itself. One of his volumes, A Perfect Vacuum, consists of reviews of non-existent books. Another one is blurbs, also for books that don’t exist. As you can see from this, he was strongly influenced by the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, after whom he’s been hailed as the ‘Borges of Science Fiction’. But he could also write straightforward stories, some of which could be hilariously funny.

Two of his works are collected short stories about robots, The Cyberiad and Mortal Engines. The stories in the Cyberiad, and several in Mortal Engines, are literally technological fairytales, in which electroknights sally forth to battle robotic dragons. Or mad robotic inventors compete with each other to create the most impressive machines, machines which usually go disastrously wrong. One of the stories in Mortal Engines, ‘The Sanatorium of Dr Vliperdius’, is about a journalist who goes to visit a mental hospital for robots. At the end of his visit, just as he is going out, the journo encounters yet another troubled cybernetic soul.

On my way back with the young assistant I met in the corridor a patient who was pulling behind him a heavily laden cart. This individual presented a singular sight, in that he was tied all around with bits of string.

‘You don’t by any chance have a hammer?’ he asked.
‘No’.
‘A shame. My head hurts.’

I engaged him in conversation. He was a robot-hypochondriac. On his squeaking cart he carried a complete set of spare parts. After ten minutes I learned that he got shooting pains in the back during storms, pins and needles all over while watching television, and spots before his eyes when anyone stroked a cat nearby. It grew monotonous, so I left him quickly and headed for the director’s office. (P. 131).

There’s a serious philosophical issue here, apart from Lem’s literary exploration of the kind of delusions mentally ill robots could suffer from, such as the robot earlier in the story, who believes that he’s really organic, but that somebody has stolen his human body and replaced it with the machine he inhabits. If humanity ever creates genuinely sentient machines, which are able to think and reason like humans – and that’s a big ‘if’, despite the assertions of some robotics engineers – then presumably there will come a point when these machines suffer psychological problems, just as humans do.

Mortal Engines was first published in America by Seabury Press in 1977, roughly at the same time Hitch-Hiker came out on radio over here. Hitch-Hiker is full of references to philosophical problems, such as the debate about the existence of God, so clearly both he and Lem saw the same potential for using robots to explore spiritual malaise, and the psychological implication of genuine Artificial Intelligence.

The Massive Crisis in American Private Healthcare

February 9, 2017

Mike’s published several articles this week on the continuing stealth privatisation of the NHS by the Tories. Maggie wanted to privatise the NHS in the 1980s, and successive right-wing governments have been gradually undermining it ever since, including that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But America’s private healthcare system is in an even worse state. Healthcare costs are rocketing to the point where health insurance is unaffordable to many American citizens. Before Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, 20 per cent of Americans could not afford their health insurance. Now that figure’s been drastically cut. It is still, however, only a palliative stop-gap. Trump and his goons wish to repeal it, leaving millions of Americans without health insurance. So now, about 58 per cent of Americans now want single-payer healthcare.

Russell Mokhiber has written an interesting article in Counterpunch, in which he describes a discussion with an American electrical contractor, who is a staunch advocate of single-payer. The article states that before Obama passed Obamacare, the American health care system was near to collapse. And despite Obama’s efforts, it still is. Mokhiber writes

“There was word behind the scenes that by the mid 2000s the healthcare system as a whole in this country was heading for the rocks. I’m talking about a full blown collapse. For those that studied the problem it is believed that when the number of uninsured people hits forty percent in any region, then the healthcare system falls apart. That is the number at which hospitals pile up unimaginable amounts of debt from uncompensated services. We were at that point in 2007 in many regions of the country. That forced the Democrats’ hand. Obama, lacking the guts, decided to expand the current system using the coercive power of the tax system and some government subsidies to pump up the system sort of like a blood transfusion. And to that extent his Obamacare system worked. But it did absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem.”

“What Trump does should be interesting to watch. If he guts Obamacare like he promises, we could wind up back in the same situation we were facing in 2007 in short order. I would say something like 2019 to 2020.”

“Based on that analysis, the single payer healthcare movement should propose a three year plan that would set itself up for action when the collapse comes.”

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/30/single-payer-engineer-rips-duplicitous-democrats/

Forty per cent of the people in certain parts of America in 2007 were without healthcare, because they couldn’t afford private health insurance!

This is one of the reasons the American healthcare companies are all over here, trying to get our governments to privatise the NHS. The American healthcare market is saturated and collapsing, so the only way they can make even more profits is by destroying socialised medicine elsewhere. Like Britain.

Don’t believe the lying rubbish spouted by May, Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, or even Blair and Brown about how wonderful private medicine is. It’s rubbish. And if we allow May, Hunt and the other thugs to privatise the NHS, we can expect a similar massive crash in the quality of healthcare in Britain.

Do we want forty per cent of Brits to be denied healthcare, just ’cause they can’t afford the premiums charged by May’s, Cameron’s and Blair’s mates in the private healthcare companies?

Support Corbyn’s campaign to renationalise the NHS, and kick out the Tories.

Jimmy Dore on a Healthcare Rally on Hollywood Boulevard

January 19, 2017

According to polls, over half of Americans now want a single-payer healthcare system. One fifth of Americans would be unable to afford private healthcare insurance without Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But Donald Trump wants to repeal Obamacare and privatise Medicare and Medicaid, the state healthcare system that exists to pay for the medical treatment of those Americans too poor to afford private health insurance.

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the comedian goes to Hollywood Boulevard, where protestors are holding a demonstration, ‘Our First Stand’, demanding single-payer healthcare, and talks to some of the people there. The demonstration’s on both sides of the street outside the famous Chinese Theatre, and the protestors are a mixture of Asian Americans and Whites. One of the ladies he talks too is an Asian woman, who tells him how her husband has a congenital heart condition. Thanks to this, before the passing of Obamacare, they found it extremely difficult to get health insurance. Now she and he are frightened that Trump’s threatened repeal with leave him without it, as well as millions of other Americans, who are similarly affected. She is also concerned and upset that Congress just doesn’t seem to understand the needs and wishes of ordinary Americans like her.

He also talks to a White woman, who agrees with him that none of this would probably have happened if Hillary Clinton had won. Trump’s victory has galvanised people to protest. But like the young man Dore talks to at the beginning of the clip, she recognises that the corporatist Democrats are part of the problem. She was one of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and she is aware and angered by the way his campaign for the presidency was blocked and defeated not by the Republicans, but by Killary and the section of the Democrat party that care more about winning big donations from the big corporations and representing them, than working for Mr and Mrs. Average Joe and Josie.

The crowd has placards saying ‘Medicare for All’, and one guy has a sign emblazoned with ‘F*ck Big Pharma’. It’s a slogan with which Dore fully approves, and he stands next to it to show his support and get it on camera. The crowd are all shouting slogans like ‘Healthcare is a right, not a privilege’.

This isn’t just an American issue. We’re faced with the same kind of situation in Britain and particularly in England. The Tories and New Labour have been trying to privatise the health service gradually since Thatcher won the general election in 1979. 55 out of 166 local health authorities now have problems finding beds, thanks to funding cuts imposed by Jeremy Hunt and his mistress, Theresa May. More and more vital NHS services are being rationed and contracted out to private healthcare providers. People are suffering because of cancelled operations, difficulties reaching the doctor, and long waiting lists.

All manufactured to give private healthcare providers access to a lucrative market that has previously been tied to the state.

And if Thatcher, Major, Blair, Cameron and May get their way, we will have the same problems over here. Private healthcare is massively expensive and very inefficient, whatever tripe the Tories, BUPA, Virgin Healthcare or Circle Health try to tell you. In America, up to 40 per cent of a company’s budget may go on administration. Pretty much like it was in the private hospitals in this country before the NHS. Private healthcare only works for those who are fit. For everyone else, especially those with congenital conditions, like the husband of the lady in the above video, it’s exorbitantly expensive. Private hospitals are smaller than state, and the private healthcare industry in Britain depends massively on state support.

There are demonstrations in this country against the Tory privatisation of the NHS. But we also need to bear in mind that, just like the corporate wing of the Democrats worked to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign, so the Blairites in the Labour party, led by John Mann, Hilary Benn and the rest of them, have tried to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with the connivance of the mainstream media. Corbyn has made it clear he intends to renationalise the NHS, in contrast to the Blairites, who have tried so hard to privatise it.

Support Corbyn.

Clear out the Blairites.

To save the NHS, May and Hunt must resign.

Tories Manufacture Dispute with GPs to Destroy NHS. Again.

January 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political today posted a truly chilling story for everyone who genuinely believes in and supports the NHS. He quotes a former deputy chair of the British Medical Association, Dr. Kailash Chand, as saying that doctors are now so sick and tired of being scapegoated by May and her lickspittle puppet, Jeremy Hunt, that they are considering disaffiliating from the NHS. Doctors are rightly annoyed at being blamed by the Tories for the crisis caused by the underfunding of the NHS. Mike’s article also reports that they are also angered by May’s demands that they run a service from 8 am in the morning to 8 pm at night, seven days a week. If they do not do so, they will losing their funding. Unless they say that there is no demand for it from their patients.

Dr. Chand has said about the attacks on GPs for the gross failure of the Tories

“I think making this particular statement at this minute is essentially scapegoating. [May] has got to find something, she can’t blame [the health secretary] Jeremy Hunt for this, or her own government.

“She’s got to find a scapegoat and GPs are probably the easiest scapegoat in this way because your rival papers, like the Daily Mail, all the time are giving the public the view that GPs don’t work and GPs are working only nine-to-five, which is nonsense.”

Mike in his article makes the point that this is exactly what Theresa May wants and will bring the prospect of a private, for-profit health system like that in America closer. He makes the excellent point that tyrants like May should not be given what they want, and recommends that doctors should set up charities as a way of blocking her plans to foist this on the economy. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it could be an effective stop-gap until a Labour government is elected that will renationalise the NHS.

His article ends

Theresa and her Tories must be defeated here. Much more depends on it than simply the NHS in England (and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, whose funding is dependent on the English service receiving cash).

Let’s have a contingency plan ready, for the moment the worst prime minister in UK history does the worst thing she possibly can. Because I think she will.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/if-gps-disaffiliate-from-the-nhs-how-about-forming-charities-to-thwart-theresa-may/

Right-wing governments, including that of Tony Blair, have wanted to privatise the NHS for a very long time now. Thatcher wanted to do so in the 1980s, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt, and by finding out just how bad the American system. Nevertheless, she still wanted 25 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance. And she also tried again to moot its privatisation a few years later.

John Major introduced the PFI scheme specifically so privatise enterprise could take over the construction and management of hospitals. It had nothing to do with efficiency or savings, and everything to do with allowing his paymasters in private health the opportunity to profit from this part of the state economy. And after his government was replaced by New Labour, Blair introduced a series of reforms which were further intended to privatise the NHS. Apart from granting more contracts to private firms and hospitals, he also wanted to replace GPs’ surgeries with polyclinics or walk-in centres, which were also supposed to be privately run. He also set up Community Care Groups, of local GPs, to manage doctors’ surgeries in the area. These were intended to have the power to arrange treatment from private healthcare providers. They are also able to opt out of the NHS, and raise money as private healthcare firms, if they so choose.

Now May and Hunt are deliberately stirring up a dispute with doctors, so that many will leave the Service altogether. Many parts of the country, including my own in south Bristol, have trouble finding staff thanks to the contrived departure of many medical professionals due to Tory policies. This is another attempt to force even more out.

This is not something that May’s just dreamed up out of the blue either. She’s taken a leaf from that other great Tory leader, Maggie Thatcher. I can remember thirty years ago when Thatcher contrived a dispute with the dentists, which resulted in them leaving the NHS. She refused to award them a rise in funding, which the dentists claimed was needed because of their use of expensive equipment.

As a result, many left the NHS, so that today those unable to pay privately may have great difficulty finding a dentist willing to treat NHS patients.

May is doing the same now with doctors.

She has to be stopped, before we go back to the conditions of horrifically poor health provision for everyone except the very rich before the establishment of the NHS under Nye Bevan.

Healthcare in America: Republican Politico Urges People to Save Money by Not Taking Children to Hospital

January 7, 2017

Since Maggie Thatcher, the privatisers and Neoliberals in all three parties have been keen to privatise and remodel the NHS at least partly on the American private healthcare model. This clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report shows just how pernicious this model, and the politicians who defend and promote it, are. Seder here comments on a speech by a Republican member of the House of Representatives, Bill Huizinga, in which he recommended that people worried about their healthcare costs could cut down on them by not seeking medical help immediately until after they were sure it was necessary. Representative Huizinga tells the story about how he waited until the next day to take his son to the A&E department of his local hospital, after the lad broke his arm falling off a trampoline.

Seder rips into this stupid attitude by making it very plain how dangerous it is. Huizinga seems to regard patients as ‘customers’. They aren’t. They are people who require medical care, and in many cases don’t have the luxury of shopping around for the lowest price. The time taken to do this, instead of getting the patient treated, could be decisive, such as in cases of head injury and concussion.

Seder also makes the point about the racism in the way Huizinga’s story was blandly accepted. If a Black parent had said that they hadn’t taken their child to the hospital, because they didn’t know if they could afford it, it’s very likely that social services would intervene. They’d have their child taken into care and be denounced as bad parents. But Huizinga has got away with this, ’cause he’s White and middle class.

However grotesque this, it is the choice faced by millions of Americans. About 20 per cent of the US population cannot afford their healthcare. And I was told by a friend that it’s not uncommon for elderly citizens suffering terminal illness to forgo palliative care in order to save money to pass on to their families.

This is what’s coming to Britain if and when May and Hunt have their way and sell off the NHS. And it did happen here before the establishment of the National Health Service. GPs were in private practice, and although successive Liberal governments introduced some state insurance coverage, this only covered the wage earner. And so many people, particularly women, did not go to the doctor except when they were seriously ill, as they could not afford it.

This is another instance where women are going to be particularly hard hit by the government’s attacks on the welfare state. Despite all the verbiage about making politics and industry more representative, with more women and people from ethnic minorities, and opening up more jobs to women and girls, it has been traditionally female jobs that have been the hardest hit by the Tories’ austerity campaign. And there is the pay gap between women and men, so that if the Tories bring in private insurance contributions into the NHS, as they and the Blairites would like, it will be women who’ll have the least insurance coverage.

Get them and their Lib Dem enablers out. Only Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that he will protect the NHS from further privatisation.

Vox Political: Red Cross Called in Because of Lethal Tory NHS Cuts

January 7, 2017

Mike today put up a post commenting on the report in today’s Guardian that the Red Cross has been called in to help the NHS manage the crisis in care this winter. As a result of the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS and their deliberate starvation of the Service of funds, 50 hospitals have said they cannot cope, and two people have died needless at a hospital in Worcestershire. Mike states

It is no coincidence that the money handed over to private healthcare – to part-fund their shareholders’ profits – along with the administration costs that go with the part-privatised system add up to around £22 billion.

So the Conservative Government – Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May, the current cabinet, and previous ministers including David Cameron and former health secretary Andrew Lansley – have engineered this crisis and would rather pay public money, your money, into the bank accounts of shareholders in Virgin Health (for example) than use it to save people who are dying on hospital trolleys as you read these words.

His article also includes a long list of tweets from people, who recognise this artificial crisis for what it is. As well as rightly blaming Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, they also make it clear that this crisis was also caused by the Lib Dems, and in particular Shirley Williams, supported Andrew Lansley’s bill. To be fair, one of the chief opponents of the bill has been David Owen, who is trying to have it reversed and has written his own book on the attempts of the politicians of New Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories to privatise it. Owen is a medical doctor, and clearly sees the danger to British healthcare, which the others don’t.

But this crisis, and the Tories’ continued demands that the NHS budget should be cut, also show how mendacious the Tories have been in their promises made in the run-up to the 2010 election. Cameron and his team claimed that they were the defenders of the NHS against the cuts inflicted by Tony Blair. They campaigned against the closures of A&E and maternity departments, and claimed they would reverse the cuts once in office. Of course, once Cameron was safely in No. 10 and Lansley head of the health department, they completely jettisoned this promise, and were back to closing everything they could and announcing that the NHS needed to be reviewed.

Of course, recently the Tories have also claimed that they’re going to give extra funding to the NHS. But these claims need to be read with care. The article in the I which reported this, several weeks ago, then followed it by stating that the Tories still intended to cut the NHS budget by so much. So what the Tories were in fact saying was that they intended to cut the NHS, only not by as much as they originally intended. If you believe them – and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t. But by placing the news of extra funding first, it gives the impression that they really are going to give more money to the NHS. And so skewed reporting and clever press statements help the Tories cover up their continuing dismemberment of the NHS.

The Private Firms Paid Millions to Check Hospital Admissions

January 7, 2017

Last Thursday, the I newspaper carried a story about private companies being paid millions of taxpayers’ money to check doctor’s referrals of patients to hospitals. Yet these centres, run by private healthcare firms, aren’t at all new. They’re mentioned in Alyson M. Pollock’s and David Price’s chapter, ‘From Cradle to Grave’ in NHS – SOS, edited by Jacky Davis & Raymond Tallis, published in 2013. Pollock and Price write

Increasingly, general practice and commissioning functions will be operated and managed by for-profit companies, twenty three of which – including well-established outfits Virgin Care, Care UK and ChilversMcCrae Healthcare – already run 227 general practices. Professional autonomy will be eroded if, for example, referral management centres run by corporate providers are used to ensure referral and prescribing practices conform to corporate budgets and the needs of shareholders. These centres were already rejecting one in eight general practitioner referrals before the full force of the new health law has been felt, and they seem to be operating along the lines of American-style ‘prior authorisation’ arrangements, whereby doctors are required to obtain approval from a higher authority (usually a private health insurance provider) before making a referral for treatment or investigation. Some of the centres, such as UnitedHealth Group UK’s recently established ‘referral facilitation service’ based in Hounslow, are run by subsidiaries of US healthcare multinationals. (pp. 191-2).

Of course, this also shows how fake the Tory claim of giving patients more ‘choice’ in their healthcare actually is. And contrary to another grotty Tory claim, it’s another layer of bureaucracy actually put into the NHS to make it attractive to private contractors.

The whole process of privatisation needs to be reverse. Now. The only political leader determined to do it is Jeremy Corbyn, but you won’t know this from the hysterical denunciations of him for being ‘Trotskyite’ from Blairites and the mainstream press, including the I.

Vox Political: Tories Nudging People into Paying for Healthcare and Part-Privatisation of Hospitals

December 21, 2016

On Monday Mike also put up a very alarming post about the numbers of patients that have chosen to pay for private treatment in NHS hospitals. Previously, the number of private patients NHS hospitals could take was capped at 2 per cent. The Tories have passed legislation allowing hospitals to raise 49 per cent of their income from private patients. In the last four years, the number of patients choosing to pay has risen to 23 per cent. Most of these are people desperate to avoid long waiting lists. The figures reveal that the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment has risen by 54 per cent.

Mike makes the point that he is not surprised people are paying for private care on the NHS, because the Tories have tried to ‘nudge’ people into going private because of the way they are deliberately underfunding the NHS to create the long waiting lists patients wish to avoid. as Mike says

They are softening us up for full NHS privatisation.

Mike makes the point that he doesn’t blame those, who have chosen to pay. But those who cannot afford to pay must still wait. And if the NHS is fully privatised, they will be unable to afford healthcare.

He also makes the point that it is unknown what sacrifices people are making now, in order to pay for the healthcare.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/19/the-evil-tory-policy-that-nudges-people-into-paying-for-their-healthcare/

This is a very important article, as it shows how far we are teetering over the precipice of a fully private healthcare system.

This follows more than three decades of Thatcherite policy. Thatcher wanted to privatise the health service, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. And also that her personal secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had told her just how bad private medicine worked after she had sent him to investigate it in America. She therefore contented herself with setting the target of getting 25 per cent of the British public to take out private health insurance.

This was followed by the gradual, piecemeal privatisation of parts of the NHS, beginning with opticians and dentistry, the introduction of privately managed hospitals under PFI during John Major’s occupation of No. 10, and then the further privatisation of the NHS by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Alan Milburn wanted the NHS to be a just a kitemark on services provided by purely private medical firms. The Blairites passed legislation splitting the NHS up into Community Care Groups, which can also raise money through private means, and encouraging NHS trusts to buy in services from private healthcare contractors. The policlinics and health centres they encouraged to be built were intended to be operated privately. This policy has been extended and advanced even further by Jeremy Hunt and the Tories. Hunt has even publicly attacked the NHS, stating that it should be broken up and privatised.

As for what happens when people cannot afford healthcare, and the sacrifices they have to make, you only have to look at America. About 20 per cent of the US population were unable to afford medical care before Obama introduced Obamacare. Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, or at least one of the top three, in the US. A study in Texas of the poor, who were unable to afford medical treatment, investigated how they coped. They found that people borrowed drugs from neighbours, or, in a small number of cases, used medicine intended for animals they acquired from vets.

A Tory friend of mine, who hates private medicine, told me some real horror stories he’d heard about America. Over there, some people with a terminal illness, have chosen to forgo treatment, as this would eat up the money they wish to pass for their children.

And he also had a few sharp things to say about the Australian healthcare system. He believed that if a person called for medical treatment for someone, who didn’t have insurance, the person calling for the treatment could be saddled with the bill. And so there is a strong disincentive for people not to call for medical aid, including for those seriously ill.

If the Tories realise Thatcher’s dream of privatising the health service, this will come to Britain. Don’t let it.

Vox Political on the Continuing Relevance of Kirsty MacColl

December 18, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written a short piece, remembering how it was 16 years ago today that the world heard the sad news of the death of the singer and songwriter, Kirsty MacColl. Mike states that listening to the lyrics of her 1989 track, Free World, it seems that very little has changed, and that we need more singers like her.

See his article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/18/kirsty-maccoll-died-16-years-ago-today-but-her-music-is-as-relevant-as-ever/#comment-92400, where there’s a video of her singing this.

I’m not surprised that MacColl was politically engaged, as I think her father was the folk musician, Communist and conscientious objector Ewan MacColl. And Mike’s right – we do need more musicians like her. The 1980s were a very bleak time, with Maggie in No. 10 shutting hospitals and schools, among too many other closures. But it was also a time of very politically engaged music by the very talented musicians that emerged in the decade. UB40 took their name from the unemployment benefit form. There was Billy Bragg, singing his ‘urban folk’ songs about the miners during the Miner’s Strike. And Joanna, one of the commenters on Mike and this blog, also notes in her comment that the Style Council’s ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ is also acutely relevant, as song of resistance to everything Thatcher and the Tories represent. That had the lyrics

‘You don’t have to take this cr*p,
You don’t have to sit back and relax
You can try and change it…
Lights go out,
Walls come tumbling down’.

Here’s a video of Paul Weller explaining why he puts his politics into music, and the band playing that same track.