Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The NHS to be Privatized

Is there a name for a news story that is in the news when it shouldn't be? Perhaps "un-news" or "anti-news". I'm talking about a journalistic truism, for example: "Official government sources say that there's a strong likelihood that the Prime Minister will attend Parliament some time this month." There's such a story in the news today, it's about the privatization of the National Health Service: The reason I think this shouldn't be news is that everybody knows the Government are privatizing the NHS, they've been doing it for almost forty years! Plans for NHS privatization were probably hatched soon after the NHS' introduction in 1947 and small reforms in that direction were made from the start. I was an NHS serviceman for twenty-three years and so know very well that it was happening because I saw it from the inside, but even to the general public it must have been obvious. I think this subject illustrates something important about our relationship to our governments.

We in the UK are very lucky; few countries have a publicly-funded free healthcare system available to all. Most nations have a system of health insurance like Medicare in the United States. Under these systems you insure your health like you do anything else, for instance your house or your car. This means that the insurer will have to assess you for risk in order to calculate your premiums, as he would with the example of a car or house. If you are generally fit and well and have had few illnesses then your premiums will be low, but if you develop a long term health problem, like asthma, diabetes or arthritis, your premiums will go up. If these illnesses endure for a long period of time or worsen then the insurance company may well decide that you present too much of a risk and cancel your contract; your body essentially becomes a write-off. For this reason in nations where free public healthcare institutions exist, the citizens are always very fond of them and would never willingly give them up. But at the same time most people have the naive concept that if their government did choose to dismantle their free healthcare system they'd come on the TV news and announce it openly; this is not how governments work at all. What they do when they want to introduce an unpopular policy is use several tricks that have been identified. In the case of the British NHS privatization they have used gradualism. David Icke calls this "the Stepping Stones Approach" or "Totalitarian Tip-Toe". Another popular analogy is the "Frog in a Saucepan": If you throw a frog into a pan of boiling water it will jump straight out again so quickly that it will not suffer harm; but if you throw a frog into a pan of cold water and very slowly turn up the heat it will swim around quite happily while it cooks! This scam has also been used to introduce the European Union. NHS privatization began in the 1960's when charges were introduced for dentists; this was done under a Labour government, the first of Harold Wilson's. This is another important myth to bust: Democracy is a con! See here for background: NHS privatization is considered the brainchild of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government of the 1980's, but that's false; when Labour retook Downing Street in 1997 they didn't only continue the policies of the previous government, the same policies they'd spent the last eighteen years lambasting, they accelerated them! In fact Tony Blair went into areas of private finance that Thatcher would never have dared to tread.

What happened was that during the 1980's the NHS was financially starved by budget cuts; then in the late 80's, when I joined Hospital Portering, hospitals were allowed to leave local Health Authority control and become "independent" trusts. At the same time hospital ancillary services, including my own, were contracted out to private companies. This was a disaster and was eventually reversed, but not before enormous damage had been done to the quality of the service and long term standards of practice; you could say that the policy did its job! This was followed by PFI- the Private Finance Initiative; this meant that all building and renovation work done in the NHS, and indeed on all Government premises, would be carried out by contractors under a credit agreement. At my hospital, the John Radcliffe, the company Carillion plc was brought in to build the West Wing, a six hundred million pound extension which included over three hundred beds for the district's neurology, plastics, ear, nose and throat services, and the Oxford Eye Hospital. Basically everything which had been housed at the old Radcliffe Infirmary site, see: The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust is paying Carillion plc back the money it cost to do this work; but the loan is for thirty-three years and will cost far more in terms of interest. I remember people saying at the time: "Can't they see this will bankrupt the Trust!" Yes! But perhaps it's meant to! And this is my prediction for the future: The various NHS trusts will default on the loans and the contractors will repossess their constructions, exactly like a mortgage-lender would for a private house. I can see GP's being made to charge patients for visits, clinic appointment fees next, then "bed-rent" for inpatients... and we will look back at what has taken place over the last few decades and say: "How on Earth did this happen!? We never agreed to this!" But we did. We agreed through our apathy, our naivete and inability to rumble the Government's ruse.

I'm writing this article from one level of knowledge when I know there is a far higher one. Many more issues are involved. I'm well aware that the privatization of the NHS is only a subsidiary concern when we take into account the domination of the Pharmaceutical industry. Whether we have an NHS or not, the healthcare system is merely a marketplace for Big Pharma and I'm very concerned about that, see: But I think it is still important to understand if only as an example of how the Frog in a Saucepan, Totalitarian Tip-Toe, whatever you choose to call it, works. It's a lesson we need to learn because the Government will try to use this trick to dupe us again. As James Madison, the fourth President of the United States once said over two hundred and fifty years ago: "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."