Channel 4…Dispatches. Getting Rich on the NHS

29 Oct

Has the NHS been privatised? No one told me!! You read a lot about NHS reforms but I personally haven’t equated reforms with widespread privatisation. If what I saw on this programme is reflective of the NHS as a whole then NHS privatisation is starting to happen in a big way, and I guess largely under the radar of most people in the country.

It seems one of the main ways in for private money is buying up self managing GP groups. Once they’re in the pressure to slash costs starts and that means removing permanent staff and replacing them with locum doctors, reducing staffing hours and referring patients to alternative sites. Primary care is an expensive operation and to accommodate the need to make a profit it is inevitable that the quality of patient care begins to deteriorate as the visits to various parts of the country by the programme showed.

One of the main beneficiaries of the unraveling of a totally state-run NHS is Virgin Care, yet another branded operation from the great bearded one. The programme showed how Virgin Care is spreading its tentacles across the NHS having won over 750 million pounds of contracts, but questions were raised about some contracts they have won.

In Surrey they won a Community Nursing contract worth millions despite not being the lowest bid. In Swindon they submitted the lowest bid but questions were raised about the service they intend to supply, ironically not dissimilar to the Virgin Rail’s complaint when they lost the West Coast mainline train franchise.

For me the issue was less a case of who is winning what in the tendering, but the rate and breadth of this privatisation exercise and the implications of this for patients

It would appear the ideological mantra that “socialised medicine”, as the Americans like to call it, being some sort of evil is stealthily making a way into the UK and we are not really being given a chance to say yes or no.

It is not just big faceless conglomerates enjoying the ‘rewards’ of privatisation, your friendly local GP may also be getting in on the act, as the creeping privatisation is opening opportunities for them to make mega bucks despite increasingly glaring conflicts of interest and there is a danger they will make decisions based less on your clinical needs and more on their pockets.

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