1:05 pm - March 24th 2013
The British Medical Journal has published an extraordinary (and scary) interview about how the NHS is being quietly privatised from 1st April 2013.
The BMJ is doing the work that hardly any media organisation in the UK is doing – informing us of upcoming changes to the NHS in a clear way.
Here are the key excerpts from the full interview.
Now those regulations [section 75] are with us, and those regulations provide the jet engines to make that privatisation go ahead. So all of the rest of the plane was put in place last year, and now at the very last minute before this whole thing happens on 1 April 2013 the regulations are coming into place to show that everything has to be put out to competitive markets by CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] and the national commissioning board. That will create rights for private providers to supply which will not only allow them to take quite a lot of the share of the NHS budget for their business right now, it also potentially makes the privatisation irreversible in the future.
LUCY REYNOLDS: We’re not going to have a big bang privatisation for the NHS. We’re going to have a very quiet one.
What has happened is that all of the rules that control health financing have been gradually changed since the New Labour times. Overall, we now have the NHS reorganised in such a way that it can be relaunched as a mixed market, so not just the public health sector service, but also a healthcare industry. The rules are structured in such a way that there will be a gradual transition between those two groups. The public sector will shrink away, and the private sector will grow.
But because there will never be an announcement in parliament that the NHS is privatised, and because the private providers will be allowed to use the NHS logo for anything that they are getting NHS funding for, it is very likely that the general public will not be aware that the private sector has in fact come in and taken over whatever bits of the NHS it finds profitable until probably service provision gets fairly bad.
LUCY REYNOLDS: Well, it sounds like a good idea to have diversity and options and these kinds of things, and that would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the rules of the market are thoroughly stacked. We know for certain that organising [healthcare] as a public sector service is the cheapest and most effective way of providing healthcare. And that is broadly because the market model does not fit healthcare. The market model includes assumptions that both parties are in possession of all information about the subject of the transaction. In markets where the consumer has to rely upon the supplier for guidance, what you get isn’t a market that clears down to a minimum price and is efficient. What you get is soaraway inflation and abuse within that market.
It’s utterly shocking that the national media (including the BBC) is ignoring all these huge changes coming over the next few weeks.
Lucy Reynolds adds that she expects a lot of public providers to go bust, as public providers that get passed over for contracts are shut down because a private provider has slightly undercut them. And what happens if it turns out that the private provider offers you a worse service?
They don’t exist any more. So you’re stuck with a worse service… and those companies are free to raise their prices later if needed.
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by Sunny Hundal
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