Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/433/5089
New Labour's NHS lies
MILLIONS OF pounds in deficit, jobs and services cut, healthcare rationed, wards and hospitals closing - the NHS is in crisis. But who's to blame? We expose the government's lies about the NHS.
Lie 1: "The deficits are mainly because hospitals have had to pay for big pay rises for doctors and nurses."
Some senior doctors have been given large pay rises. But many NHS staff are faced with effective pay cuts because of the Agenda for Change job evaluation and pay review system. Many NHS staff are still on chronically low wages. Now they are facing redundancy as well.
Lie 2: "The deficits are also because of a massive increase in the drugs bill."
The cost of drugs has gone up and new drugs have become available to treat more illnesses. But drug companies are some of the most profitable in the world. They cost the NHS £10 billion a year, about 14% of total expenditure.
If these companies were nationalised and controlled democratically as an integral part of the health service, their resources could be unleashed for the benefit of all, not just a few shareholders.
Lie 3: "The current NHS 'reforms' are all about giving patients more choice."
Survey after survey has shown that people are not so much concerned about choice but about having a good hospital near where they live. The reason New Labour keep emphasising choice is that they want hospitals to compete with eachother. You can't have the madness of the market in the NHS unless the 'consumers' make 'choices'.
Lie 4: "Payment by results is the most efficient way of delivering health care."
Hospitals have gone into deficit because of underfunding and privatisation. They then make cuts in services. But fewer services mean a reduced income and a bigger deficit.
Payment by results means it's impossible to plan ahead with a secure income. This is made worse by being forced by the government to hive off 15% of elective surgery to expensive private providers.
Lie 5: "Private companies can deliver health care cheaper than the NHS."
Health economists estimate that it costs about £12 billion a year to operate the market in the NHS. This is the cost of invoicing, management consultants financial 'rescue' teams, marketing, advertising and lawyers. None of this contributes anything to healthcare.
In the mid-1970s, before privatisation took hold, administration amounted to about 5% of NHS spending. Now it's 20%.
Lie 6: "Everyone is still guaranteed good quality healthcare, free at the point of use."
Pregnant women in Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea NHS Hospital in London are being asked for £4,000 to ensure they get a named midwife through their labour - recommended for all births. This is the beginning of unequal healthcare - distributed on the basis of ability to pay.
Lie 7: "All these changes are improving the health service. Anyway, the Tories made more cuts when they were in power."
"Patients are now going without care and suffering on a scale which has not been seen since before the inception and creation of the NHS in 1948 - all for the sake of the alleged gains to be had from 'market efficiency'". Allyson Pollock, a public health doctor and author of NHS plc.
In The Socialist 30 March 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party campaigns