Not so long ago we reported on the state of our treasured National Health Service, focusing on the fact that it looks like we’re headed for a similar privatised healthcare arrangement to the US.
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For decades the UK has offered its citizens free healthcare including doctors visits, hospital appointments, surgery and check ups, and all we have to offer back is the low prescription fee. It’s one of the staples of our society and one that we really can’t afford to live without – just check out the kind of bills we’d be facing under a private regime. And you only need to look at the ridiculous Southern Rail to realise that when you hand over the control of a nationwide facility to cooperation’s, profit trumps service.
Despite public opinion siding with the idea that a free public healthcare service is an absolute essential to the British population, it appears that we have already lost the battle. Last week Sir Richard Branson’s health care firm, Virgin Care, won a £700million contract to deliver 200 types of NHS and social care services to more than 200,000 people in Bath and North East Somerset. The transference has begun.
So while we were all shitting it about Trump winning the spot as the 45th President of the United States of America (which I think is fair enough), the UK government decided now was a good time to dismantle the NHS while the general public were suitably distracted. Nice one guys.
The contract, which was approved on Thursday, has sparked new fears about private healthcare firms taking control of publicly funded health services. And quite rightly so – this is only the beginning and although we might fight and resist, it seems like the government has already made up its mind about the NHS. Hence why Jeremy Hunt and the media have done such a good job of convincing the public that our healthcare system is inefficient, all the while taking significant chunks out of its funding. It’s not fair, but I guess neither is Donald Trump winning the election or Brexit even being considered, let alone actually going ahead.
Virgin Care has been handed the contract by both Bath and North East Somerset NHS clinical commissioning group and Conservative-led Bath and North East Somerset council. The seven year contract, as said, is worth £70 million and includes an option to extend it by another three years at the same price.
This all means that from 1st April 2017, Virgin Care will become the prime provider of a wide range of health care for adults and children. Here we go. A profit-focused company will be put in charge of thousands of citizens’ lives and instead of concentrating on offering the optimum care possible, like the US its managerial team will be ensuring to save and make as much money as possible. And in this time of political struggle and turmoil, I’m sure that’s the kind of good news we all want to hear. Virgin Care’s services will include everything from treating people with diabetes, dementia or those who have suffered from a stroke, as well as people with mental health conditions. It will also cover care of children with learning disabilities and frail, elderly people who are undergoing rehabilitation to enable them to go back to living at home safely after an operation.
NHS campaigners who are against the move have already warned that the history of privatisations of NHS services in other parts of England have already proved that the quality of care patients receive will drop once Virgin takes over. Paul Evans, co-ordinator of the NHS Support Federation, which monitors NHS contracts being awarded to firms such as Virgin, said:
This is obviously part of a big push by Virgin to dominate the supply of community health across England. The experience so far from NHS outsourcing is that companies struggle to deliver the level of service that patients need and make a profit.
In too many instances outsourced healthcare has resulted in care being compromised to cuts costs. Patients need secure services that they can trust and rely on.
Meanwhile, Eleanor Jackson, a Labour member for Bath and North East Somerset council said that she was “horrified” by the decision:
Make no mistake about it, what has happened here is the beginning of the privatisation of the NHS in this country. Woe betide you getting ill in this area if you are old, disabled or have learning difficulties in the next seven years. It is just a horrifying decision.
It’s interesting to see the slow yet effective dismantling of the NHS unfolding before our eyes. The problem is, when we read about such a drastically tragic and appalling movement, we tend to think it won’t happen. I remember truly believing that there was no way the government would really increase student tuition fees by three-fold and yet here we are. The same goes for Brexit and although it’s across the pond, I’m sure most of us were still in utter disbelief that Trump won.
I guess we need to stop having faith and trusting those in power, because they clearly don’t have our interests at heart. The privatisation of the NHS is truly one of the most awful movements of Britain today and it’s happening right under our noses. So what can we do about it? Well, I guess we could protest, although we know that doesn’t get us very far. Aside from that? Move to a different country that does offer free healthcare – if Brexit will let us that is.