The Thick of It

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The NHS:The end of the public service ethos


The point of the NHS is that it is free at the point of use. Nobody is expected to pay directly for their healthcare, it is paid out of central taxation. Another central principle is that the NHS doesn't exist for profit. What we pay in taxes shouldn't be creamed off to pay dividends instead of patient care. This is the pubic service ethos. The Tories plans for the NHS eat away at this.

Today's reports that one of David Cameron's aides Mark Britnell would be a "big opportunity" for the private sector show that the government's (not publicly stated) aim is to chip away at the public service ethos in the NHS. It strikes me that the point in these reforms is to allow the private sector a greater role in NHS service provision. This makes it likely that the private sector will cream off the profitable parts and leave the state to pick up and pay for the rest. Chipping away at the public service ethos is also likely to chip away at the quality of care given to patients as the profit motive encourages the cutting of corners.

Politicallly Britnell's comments demonstrate an extreme naivety about how people feel about the NHS. It also suggests that Cameron's proclaimed "love" for the NHS isn't the same love shared by the rest of the country. Cameron's advisor's comments were not off guard, off the record or mis-quoted. They show what the Tories really want to do to the NHS. They want to part privatise it.

The "pause" in the NHS reforms were just that. Nothing will change, the same reforms will happen, just a little later. Politically the result will be the same. As the Mirror reports that 62% of people are against the reforms, added to all of the professional bodies, this is yet another unpopular and unnecessary Tory policy. How will the Lib Dems react? They won't be able to stop it no matter how vociferous their complaints. Cameron is ploughing on regardless.

At least today's comments showed the Tories' true intentions, nobody can say they didn't realise what they were planning to do when the NHS gets sold off.

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