Thursday, 30 May 2024

New Horizon – My Concerns For The NHS

WELCOME to another article serialising issue 1 of New Horizon – the online ideological journal of the National Liberal Party. But what is ideology? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines ideology as ‘a form of social or political philosophy in which practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones. It is a system of ideas that aspires both to explain the world and change it.’

With the above in mind, feel that this article in particular – which looks at the importance of the National Health Service – reflects the ideological spirit of National Liberalism. Here both practicality and theory merge. The vast majority of Britions would probably have some sort of practical experience relating to the NHS. In the theoretical sense, the NHS binds our nation and people together, and provides an essential service for both. Indeed, as the article notes, the NHS is regarded as our ‘National Pride.’

As always, debate is free with the NLP. Therefore, we’d more than appreciate your thoughts & comments on this article. Simply post them on our National Liberals Facebook page –
– or National Liberal Party Facebook page – – once you see this article reproduced on them.


A personal viewpoint from the National Liberal Party Secretary Glen Maney

(Top) The now very familiar National Health Service logo was unveiled in January 2017. The NHS wouldn’t have come into being without the vision and work of Ernest Brown (Bottom left). Brown was the Liberal National (National Liberal) Minister for Health from 1941 – 1943. He commissioned the Beverıdge report that ultimately led to the introduction of the NHS. Former National Liberal Party Secretary Glen Maney (Bottom right) has rightly described the NHS as our ‘National Pride’.

I WAS an employee of British Rail when it was broken up. I worked in the Revenue Protection Department in the Fraud team. Working closely with the British Transport Police we were effective. Then came privatisation.

It was going to be, according to John Major’s Government, the best thing for the passenger, the railway’s customer. Competition would drive down prices and everything in the commuter garden would be rosy! Of course it didn’t turn out like that.

Cutting back

Despite massive Government subsidies paid to private companies from taxpayer’s (passengers) revenues, the first thing these shareholder beholden companies did, was to cut back on staff and get people multi tasking on poorer contracts and lower money with the odd cut to safety practices being seemingly unimportant? My department was closed because you “can’t audit a deterrent value”, so in 1997, six months after my section of British Rail had become North London Railways, the successor to SilverLink, I was made redundant.

I’m not going to go too deeply into what has happened to fares because for every set of figures I produce, some Government department will dispute them using some cost index that suits. You however, the passenger, will know just how deeply your pocket has been affected. Price rises of over 200% since privatisation can be found. Has the average wage trebled in the last 16 years without promotion? The answer is NO. The shareholders of these companies however have done very nicely though, thank you very much! In August we learned that Stagecoach, owner of the South West Trains and East Midlands Trains franchises, had risked the rage of passengers, green campaigners and trade unions with plans to return £340m to shareholders – including an £88m windfall for the brother and sister who founded the group. This was just days after they announced another set of fare increases, some as high as 13%!

NHS our National Pride

So what has all that got to do with the NHS our National pride, providing free health care to our citizen’s since 1948. Well let me explain. As the House of Lords prepares to scrutinise the Health and Social Care Bill, doctors’ leaders of all disciplines are questioning the place of choice and competition in the health service. The Government’s proposed model for the NHS is very similar to the one that sold off the utilities and indeed that of the railways.

Effectively privatizing the NHS

It is a complex piece of legislation, but the overall concern of many doctors and campaigners is that, in its current form, it will allow much of the £85bn NHS budget to pass directly into the pockets of private companies and their shareholders.

The core reform will see the end of the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) which currently decide where NHS money is spent.

The idea is that a set of Commissioners (I wonder who’ll appoint these no doubt trustworthy and incorruptible guardians of our health?!) will decide how it’s spent instead, using the flawed currency of the National Tariff for Health Services or the even more ill thought out National Outcomes Frameworks. They will ‘commission’ from any qualified provider whose sole credentials will be a registration by the Care Quality Commission.

The illusion of choice

We can all agree with the Prime Minister that an ageing population, an open door immigration policy for EU residents and costly technological advances, create new challenges to which the NHS needs to respond. But what have choice and competition got to contribute to the answer?

Choice is an illusion created by people to sell you something. The free market in which the mightiest US private healthcare companies compete and provide health services in a mixed economy is a fallacy. Competition creates huge, monopoly suppliers. Many of the private companies are faceless and unaccountable. Private companies have to grow, have shareholders to satisfy, and are not immune to failure. When they fail who picks up the pieces? However flawed our NHS and social care system, it is there for all to see and it is accountable.

So why would we put our NHS at risk?

The Government even admits that NHS management costs run at not much more than 3%, compared with nearly 20% for the US. Why would we want to copy their model? A few quick windfalls for a few select rich people? Procurement procedure legal teams employed out of the NHS budget to oversee contracts with private suppliers will be experts in cross company litigation and will cost millions in legal fees alone; money that won’t be going to front line care.

So what’s the point

The point is they want to be seen to be doing something, anything, because of the huge challenges that lay ahead.

I’d be cynical to think that it’s just another way of keeping the poor in their place and creating a two tier system for the haves and the have nots, as they have done in other parts of our society, like education.Surely not !

I personally think that long term investment and cutting management structures and Government convened Quangos is the way forward.

If a private company has equipment we need, let’s buy it for the NHS. It’s the people’s money for the people. If we don’t bomb any middle-eastern countries for a while, when they have internal disputes, we’ll have the money!

When a private company takes over a public company the first thing they do, just as they did on the railways, is to cut costs. How do they do that? They cut staff and they cut services. Is this what you want for your NHS?

Do we want to follow the American model, as shown in Michael Moore’s documentary “SICKO”, and have people who can’t afford to pay private company prices, operating on themselves? Have an infant mortality rate for the lower social economic groups, rising year on year? NO me neither. Sadly, however I think that’s exactly what we’re going to get under the ConDems!

Don’t forget, I’ve seen it first hand once before, on the Railways.

• ALSO Check out:

Build New Horizon!
New Horizon – Head & Heart
New Horizon – National Liberalism In Action – Civil Liberties–-national-liberalism-in-action-–-civil-liberties
New Horizon – National Liberalism In Action – The Nature of Democracy–-national-liberalism-in-action-the-nature-of-democracy
New Horizon – Ecology: The Silent Fourth Pillar of National Liberalism
New Horizon – ECONOMICS Part 1 – The Economic Roots and influences of National Liberalism

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