BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said:
“It does strike me as bizarre that at exactly the same time as the Government seems to be taking the banks into public ownership, they are still trying to flog out parts of the NHS to the private sector.”
“Bizarre” may not be the view of HMG.
It has been demonstrated that in a recession, Education (tuition, textbooks), Reading (newspapers, magazines), Personal insurance and pensions, Healthcare (health insurance, services), Food at home, all thrive. That is where consumers spend their limited amount of money when thrift is forced upon them.
It seems reasonable, therefore, for a government to focus on these industries as a bolster for the economy. The reported strength of healthcare during a recession, however, comes from work originating in the USA. Presumably, apart from the profits made by companies who manufacture and sell drugs and appliances, much of this is not relevant to a system such as the NHS where health is funded by taxes and not regarded as a commodity. The challenge therefore, when an economy is in trouble is to turn UK healthcare into a commodity somehow or another.
The Witch Doctor believes HMG have known for some considerable time that this serious financial crisis was brewing and they have been struggling to win the popuation of the UK round to accepting healthcare as a commodity.
For all the faults of the NHS, most of the UK population do not want to be considered to be a lump of coal when ill.
What we are seeing now seems to be a desperate attempt to introduce the private sector into mainstream healthcare under the aegis of the NHS. Money generated from income tax and national insurance will flow into these healthcare companies but, in order to make a profit, there will need to be more than this. Doubtless rationing, top-up fees, clever marketing, screening, health prevention, alternative medicine will all have a roll to play in ensuring profit for these companies.
It is widely acknowledged that a private company may, for example, manufacture bedpans and cleaning materials, and profit from this. This is considered necessary and acceptable and “close to the patient.” However, there are other companies that are concealed behind some of the “soft” management initiatives going on in the NHS. Patients’ taxes are finding their way into these companies in the wings, and there is often no evidence that patient care will be improved as a consequence.
Doubtless more Privatisation of chunks of the NHS will gradually come into play as the process creeps following the opening of polyclinics in most areas. The Witch Doctor believes this is the reason why polyclinics will not be allowed to fail and why consultation was either notional or ignored.
There will also be Charitisation. The government has developed quite an interest in The Third Sector. This may serve the economy well during difficult times by enabling free or cheap labour at the hands-on end of the organisations concerned. How many companies or individuals, if any, may be profiting from these charitable acts? Will the economy be boosted? Will charitable work always be voluntary? Will free or cheap labour turn out to be the bottom rung of The Skills Escalator?
These are the questions The Witch Doctor and My Black Cat are asking ourselves at this very moment.
a red apple ……………………