Tuesday 11 January sees yet another Tory bill being debated in the House of Lords. This time it’s Sajid Javid’s disgraceful Health and Care Bill. If it passes, we will see a healthcare system with further privatisation of the NHS, giving companies dangerous sway over how our health system is run.
The key change, once the bill becomes law, will be the increasing power of Integrated Health Care Systems (ICSs) and the boards that will run them. According to the NHS, the role of ICSs is to coordinate:
partnerships between the NHS, local authorities, and a range of stakeholders to improve services and the health of people within their area.
A push towards privatisation
By April 2021, 42 ICSs were already in place across England. The NHS says that the boards are organisations “with responsibility [for] NHS functions and budgets”. According to The Canary’s Curtis Daly:
The important part to look for is who’s represented on these Care Boards. It will range from charities, councils… and private health firms.
What insight do private health providers bring to the table? Nothing except profitability over the quality of care. The aim is not to provide patients with the best services but to serve shareholders.
That is the whole point of these structural changes – to move public wealth into private hands.
The NHS has already designated who will be chair of the majority of the boards, even though the bill hasn’t yet passed.
And the NHS was already dealt a huge blow when the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012. Daly says:
The Health and Social Care Act was a significant move to privatisation. Before the legislation was brought in, hospitals were restricted to only making 2% of their income from the private sector. This dramatically increased to 49%.
The bill will also hand a huge amount of power to the government to control what happens at a local level in the NHS. According to Keep Our NHS Public:
- the Secretary of State for Health will assume decision making power to impose local service reconfigurations
- the right and power of scrutiny by local authorities of significant health changes will be weakened or abolished
- the right of access by the public to board meetings and papers may also be threatened.
Is this our last chance to save the NHS from complete destruction?
As the public urges the House of Lords to step up to save our health care system, SOS NHS – a coalition of campaign groups – has called a public emergency. At a time when coronavirus (Covid-19) deaths have exceeded 175,000, SOS NHS argues that:
There has also been a total failure of government during the pandemic. Public health measures have been undermined and far too many have been allowed to die, especially among vulnerable groups.
It also says:
Billions have been wasted on failed, privatised test and trace and useless PPE: we need investment to expand our NHS, not line the pockets of private shareholders. But the Health and Care Bill going through parliament won’t stop privatisation. Instead it strengthens central powers and further reduces any local control or accountability.
A core demand of the campaign is to “invest in a fully publicly-owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations”. But as the bill passes through the Lords, it’s highly unlikely that parliament will put the public before profit.
We already live in a desperately unequal society, divided by both class, race, and migration status. We mustn’t stand by and watch the last remnants of our public healthcare be crushed by the rich and their powerful corporate friends. After all, it’s society’s most vulnerable that will suffer the most from the changes to the NHS. As the Tories pass bill after draconian bill, we must continue to shout out our resistance.
Featured image via Flickr/Gary Knight
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