Our National Health Service is under threat and, according to a number of sources, we could one day be living with an American style insurance based system thanks to the capitalist agenda of corporate greed.
Before the general election in 2015, I attended the screening of ‘Sell Off – The Abolition of Your NHS’, a film created and funded by senior NHS employees aiming to convey the truth about the real plans posed for our public health system. The screening was attended by a number of local politicians from the Labour and Green parties, along with other local residents.
It is, by far, one of the most disturbing films I’ve watched. It describes the introduction of PFI (Private Finance Initiative) by the Conservative party in 1992 and how the continued use of PFI has lead to our NHS being crippled by high interest, spiraling debt, which is owed to private investors.
What is PFI?
PFI basically funds public infrastructure projects with private capital. It is a contract by which private companies fund the provision of public services, particularly public buildings. It has been used in the last two decades to provide schools, libraries, hospitals etc, and it means that private sector banks and construction firms finance, own, operate and lease them back to the UK taxpayer, over a period of usually about 30 years or so . It is now in use across the NHS, as well as the Departments for Education, Defence, Local Government, Transport, and Justice. Due to the high interest rates, PFI is significantly more costly than Government funded projects as the cost of borrowing is at least two times higher than works directly funded by the government. It means that our public services are slowly being shackled by a mountain of rising debt.
How does PFI affect the NHS?
PFI is the prime suspect when establishing the reasons for the current funding crisis to be found in hospitals nationwide. NHS Trusts apparently owe approximately £80 billion in PFI loan repayments and unitary charges. Unitary charges relate to the extortionate ongoing running costs of maintaining hospitals via PFI – where private contractors are granted monopoly rights to deliver maintenance and services. A recent article in The Guardian newspaper described how the capital cost of rebuilding Calderdale Royal Hospital in Yorkshire would be £64.6 million, however , due to PFI, the scheme will end up costing Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust a total of £773.2 million!
The government wants us to loose faith in the NHS.
‘Sell Off’ describes the government’s agenda of running the NHS into the ground in order to encourage the public to lose faith in its abilities as a public entity and accept privatisation. It alleges that exactly the same method was used with our utilities and the railways system, which were poorly managed prior to privatisation in order to encourage the public to accept such action.
The Health and Social Care Bill 2012.
The Health and Social Care Bill 2012 paved the way for major transformation of our NHS. It also removed the secretary of state’s responsibility, ownership and accountability for provision of free healthcare, something which had been in place since the creation of the NHS in 1948. Recent efforts to thwart the implications of the bill have taken the form of the NHS Reinstatement which was recently blocked by filibustering Conservative MPs.
Why the NHS should remain a public entity.
A public NHS is run purely in the interests of the patient and allows doctors to treat patients with the care they need rather than overly considering the financial implications. It also ensures that UK healthcare remains affordable and cost effective. A private NHS means that the system is run my big business, in the interests of profit not people. It also means that, if the rumours are true, British citizens will potentially be paying thousands for healthcare, for something that was once free, in order to line the pockets of private companies. You only have to look across the pond at the U.S and read the stories about people losing their jobs due to illness and then having to sell their homes and become homeless in order to pay their medical bills! Our government have said that healthcare will remain free at the point of need, I for one do not trust them.
What should we do about it?
Raising awareness and support is the key to turning things around. There are plenty of groups online that are fighting to save the NHS and many of them also have more localised groups that you can coordinate with. Whether it’s handing out leaflets, talking to people or merely signing a petition here and there, every little helps. Here are some links to groups fighting to keep our NHS public.
Watch the film