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Ear to the Ground

Goodbye to the U.K.’s National Health Service?

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Posted on Jan 10, 2014
Byzantine_K (CC BY 2.0)

Britain may not have the world’s model medical service for long. NHS official Kailash Chand predicts the inexpensive and efficient nationalized system could be replaced by a largely privatized version involving worse “access, equity, health outcomes and cost” within five years.

The service is on the chopping block, ready to be sold in pieces to private corporations by Prime Minister David Cameron and MP and Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, both members of the Conservative Party.

Chand, who has 35 years of experience with the NHS as a doctor and a chair, writes at The Guardian, “For the entire length of 2013, the NHS came under relentless attack on grounds of ‘quality’ by politicians and the right-wing press, driving the privatization agenda.”

He continues:

We are inexorably moving toward a system ruled by bogus choice, competition, market forces and diversity of suppliers. By opening every NHS corner to “any qualified provider”, the whole service can be taken over by private companies, with a few token charities and mutuals. NHS hospitals, faced with the consequences of cherry-picking by private consortia, risk bankruptcy when left to deal only with complex cases.

In the past two years, £11bn worth of our NHS has been put up for sale, while 35,000 staff have been axed, including 5,600 nurses. Half of our 600 ambulance stations are earmarked for closure. One-third of NHS walk-in centres have been closed and 10% of A&E units have been shut. Waiting lists for operations are at their longest in years as hospitals are consumed by the crisis in A&E.

The morale of the NHS family is at rock bottom. Their pay has been frozen for two years under the coalition, and they have been forced to accept a major downgrading of their pension benefits. Freezing and squeezing pay is heaping financial misery on more than one million NHS workers.

The NHS will just be a logo; a most cherished institution reduced from being the main provider of health services in England with one of the biggest workforces in the world, to a US-style insurance scheme, divorced from the delivery of care. Fewer treatments will be available to people as cuts start to bite, with wealthier people able to “top up” treatments. It’s not just a postcode lottery – it’s also a tax code lottery.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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