By stealth, of course. What can we expect from the most underhanded, base and dissembling government in living memory?
Oh, I suppose you all thought it was safe because Andrew Lansley gave his assurance that creeping privatisation would only proceed where it was in the public interest.
A Tory’s idea of public interest doesn’t coincide with the dictionary definition, you know. They’re nicknamed ‘self-servatives’ for a reason.
That’s why, last Wednesday, when you and I were discussing Workfare or the new regulations for social security benefits (which are themselves almost as scandalous as the Coalition government’s treatment of the NHS), the Department of Health quietly released regulations that open England’s health service to widespread competition. ‘NHS’ will, for all intents and purposes, become a brand name beneath which private health corporations will operate – always with an eye on their profit margin.
These regulations contradict Mr Lansley’s assurances, made while he was trying to get the then-Health and Social Care Bill passed into law. But that was when he was trying to persuade public opinion to side with him; the current Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, needs no such backing – the regulations have been introduced via a little-known Parliamentary procedure known as ‘negative resolution’, meaning the new rules will not be discussed or voted on but will automatically become law on April 1.
From then on, competition will be enforced. GPs will not have flexible powers to choose the right provision for patients, despite previous assurances.
But then, those assurances came from a Parliament in which 65 members were known to have a financial interest in private healthcare providers.
All were permitted to discuss the Health and Social Care Bill as it passed through Parliament, and all were able to vote on it – even though they had a vested interest in ensuring that it was passed into law.
Nobody with such interests should be allowed to vote on any law in this country. The automatic assumption in any other branch of government is that they would be unable to provide an unbiased view. In other words, their vote would be corrupt.
I am convinced that this is the case.
I do not wish to be treated by any ‘doctor’ whose primary concern is his or her profit margin. I don’t want to be treated by any organisation whose concern for that profit margin might mean it cuts back on expenditure that is required for the treatment of patients.
And what will happen as time passes and these organisations embed themselves in the system? How long will it be before we start hearing doctors telling us that our illnesses are complicated and treatment may need to take some time – or would we like to go private? Will they then prolong that treatment anyway, in order to get as much cash from us as possible?
It’s a get-rich-quick scheme for those MPs who are shareholders in health corporations.
It’s also – in my opinion – the biggest betrayal of the national interest ever committed by a British government.
All is not yet lost. There’s not much hope but a procedure known as ‘laying a prayer’ allows MPs to annul the change, if it is made within the 40 days before the regulations become law. If enough MPs support the motion, it could be followed by a Commons debate and vote. You can email your MP by looking up his or her address at www.theyworkforyou.com (please try to sidestep the fact that the website title is turning into a blatant lie).
More likely to succeed is a call for Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham to make a firm commitment that the new rules will be overturned and any and all contracts will be cancelled if Labour are elected into office in 2015. Mr Burnham has already committed himself to repealing the Health and Social Care Act, so this seems a distinct possibility. Their email addresses are MilibandE@parliament.uk and firstname.lastname@example.org
It might also be a good idea to contact the National Health Action Party for support on this issue.
For further information and other ideas, please see the following:
This is urgent and immediate. Don’t think for a moment that it won’t affect you because it absolutely will. Even if you live in Scotland or Wales, what will you do if you have to go across the border for treatment?
Personally, if I have to have treatment in an English hospital after April 1, I shall demand to know whether my care will be provided by a private provider or the NHS. If it’s a private provider, I’ll refuse it and demand NHS treatment instead.
I wonder what will happen if we all do that?