Thursday 26 September 2013

Privatisation of the NHS? Still tosh, says Mike Freer ...

Mrs Angry has been distracted from the onerous task of recording her Brighton conference memoirs by a feeling of outrage on reading this article in today's Mirror, here , with the headline: 

'NHS Reforms Scandal: Hospitals charging patients for treatment that used to be free' ... 

As this extract makes clear, the NHS as we understood is already a thing of the past, and the principle of free healthcare for all is dead, killed by Coalition policy, and lying on the ground, waiting for predatory private healthcare companies to step over the corpse of our welfare state, so as to avail themselves of the profits to be had at our expense, and the expense of our health and quality of life. Forget the post code lottery: you'll be lucky to find any tickets to the new 'NHS', unless you can afford to pay now.

"Hospitals are abusing David Cameron’s NHS reforms to charge patients for treatment which used to be free, Labour has revealed.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the secret development was the “next scandal” to hit the NHS.

He revealed under the Government’s reforms, the NHS had started rationing healthcare to save cash - while at the same time offering patients the chance to “self fund” their treatment to jump the queue.

Warrington and Halton Hospitals in the North West have admitted that “some treatments provided in the past may no longer be accessible through local NHS funding”.
But the hospitals add patients can “pay to have these procedures with us at the standard NHS price” instead.

Chelsea and Westminster, Southampton, Great Yarmouth and James Paget University Hospitals Trust all offer similar deals, Freedom of Information requests released by Labour showed.

In total, NHS hospitals have increased their private work by almost £100million since Mr Cameron opened up the health service to profit-making firms.

In October 2012, the Government gave hospitals the freedom to generate up to 49% of their income from private patients.

Over the following year, hospitals raked in £434 million from private treatment - a boost of some £47 million on 2010/11 when the Tories took power.

This will increase by a further £45 million to £479 million by next year, according to projections.

The boost in paid-for treatment has coincided with an increase in rationing brought in under the government’s reforms."

Not so long ago, Mike Freer, the Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, poured scorn on the idea that the NHS was being privatised ... He of course had been a staunch defender of the withholding of the Risk Register, standing up in parliament and accusing those who wanted transparency on the issue of the 'reforms' of being 'shroud wavers'. 

Unfortunately, it seems horribly likely that our newly privatised easycouncil cemetery here in Capitaville will soon be filling up with shrouded residents, hastened to their demise by the inevitable decline in reasonable and fair access to a good standard of healthcare, as the Coalition assault on our National Health Service continues.

Mrs Angry decided to tackle her MP on this subject. Here is the correspondence - to be updated, if he replies to the last response.

Dear Mr Freer

Earlier this year you replied to a tweet by one of your constituents that the idea our NHS was being privatised was 'tosh'.
May I refer you to this article in today's Mirror -

-  and ask you please to explain why NHS hospitals are now charging patients for certain procedures and operations, and if this is not indeed proof that privatisation is happening now, and is creating a two tier society where the rich can secure a better standard of healthcare, while those who cannot afford to pay must go the back of the queue.

I think this is utterly shameful, and the worst indictment yet of a government administration directed by a privileged elite that has never understood the needs of ordinary people, and cares even less.

The destruction of the NHS is the issue which is going to lose the next election, and, I think, is very likely to remove you from your seat in Finchley and Golders Green.

I look forward to hearing your views.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Angry

He replied:

Dear Mrs Angry  

Thank you for providing a link to a newspaper report. I look forward to Mr Burnham raising this in Parliament so the facts ca be established rather than his assertions. At the same time he may wish to apologise for all of the scandals in the NHS Labour were responsible for. 

Mike Freer MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green 

Mmm. Response from Mrs Angry: 

Dear Mr Freer,

Thank you for your prompt reply, but you are conflating two separate issues; the privatisation of the NHS, and whatever you mean by 'all of the scandals' allegedly the responsibility of the former administration, which is a matter of scrutiny, and enforcement. 

I would also remind you that under Labour, waiting lists were reduced to a reasonable minimum: as I can tell you from personal experience, waiting lists are now, since the Coalition government took over, increased to an intolerable level and are set to lengthen even further as pressure is brought to bear on GPs to minimise referrals. 

Again this is a practice my family has had experience of, in your constituency, and it is one that is putting lives at risk, and causing severe distress to those with serious illness or injuries who are in need of fast and effective treatment.

The closure of vital services at Chase Farm, and the removal of others from Finchley Memorial Hospital, and other local hospitals, will have the greatest impact on those who cannot afford to buy faster access to healthcare, whether from establised private enterprises or those now to be offered by the newly privatised, profiteering ventures, using resources stolen from our NHS hospitals.

Mrs Angry 

Are you happy to see our NHS, and the right to free healthcare for all, a right so hard won, taken from you, by profiteering private companies? If not, time to stand and fight for it.

If you are also a consituent of Mr Freer, and you care about the future of the NHS, you may also wish to let him know what you think of the matter: his email address is -


Don't Call Me Dave said...

The National Health Service is not free. It never has been. Patients on waiting lists rightly bemoan "I pay my bloody taxes…." which is a tacit acceptance by the public that it never will be.

It is not strictly accurate to say that the NHS is free at the point of delivery either. The best we can claim is that no further charges are made at the point of delivery (although for some treatments this is also not true).

Successive Governments have failed to deliver on election promises to improve the NHS despite spending huge sums of public money. Advances in medicine and the corresponding rising cost of treatment and new equipment mean that resources will continuously be stretched irrespective of the state of the economy or which political party is in power. Most people accept that the Treasury is not a bottomless pit of money. Whilst it would be a very brave person to suggest that the NHS should be privatised, even the Blair government accepted that the State funded system cannot cope on its own.

Private hospitals are generally better managed and more efficient than NHS hospitals, and the simple solution would be for the private sector to treat national health patients at public expense, effectively running a parallel service to the NHS. For some surgical procedures, this already happens.

The NHS should run A&E services and non-elective surgery. Elective surgery should be carried out in private hospitals. Unfortunately, some of you unreconstituted socialists still fail to understand that nothing in this life is free. It has to be paid by someone. There is no money tree at the end of the garden.

Mrs Angry said...

DCMD, really: whaddya mean, even the Blair government? I thought you were trying to pin something on us wicked, unconstituted socialists?

Of course the NHS must be supported by tax, but it is the organisation of resources which is the problem, and one which will not be answered by the Tory/Fibdem bargain basement sale of stock to private healthcare companies.

I don't greatly object to private care, supported by private means, as a separate system - as long as it doesn't thrive by the parasitical use of NHS resources: something which was happening already last year in the Royal Free radiography dept, with the first hour of appointments reserved for clients of the new private clinics, when NHS patients were being told to wait a month for emergency scans ...

Private treatment to cut NHS queues was, I think, a Labour led initiative but one which, as my GP told me, blocked by this government. Mustn't encourage the plebs to think they are entitled to the same standard of care as people like us, must we?

I do object to the fact that the consultant my family member with a serious health problem took 8 months to see could have been consulted within a day or so if we had the means to pay him a whopping fee.

I do object,passionately object, to the insidious introduction of charging for certain procedures or operations. This is an outrage, and yet such policies are what we must expect to see now, so much a part of the agenda of the divided society your Tory chums want to create, where you only have access to the best education, housing, and healthcare as a benefit of privilege, rather than as a right in itself.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Mrs Angry

You really do your cause no good when you make inflammatory statements such as “as long as it doesn't thrive by the parasitical use of NHS resources” Not only is this borderline offensive (private patients have a right to treatment as well), but where is your evidence to support it?

There are two MRI machines at the Royal Free. How do you know that one (or both) were not paid for in part by the private health care system on a joint venture basis? These machines cost millions of Pounds. There is nothing morally wrong with a private health care provider saying “We will contribute X% of the cost of the machine in return for Y hours use every week / month”

The reality is that many NHS hospitals would not be able to run such equipment without the subsidy from the private sector. Would you prefer that the private providers only used equipment in private hospitals? This might theoretically give faster access time in NHS hospitals for NHS patients, but it will do them bugger all good if the hospital don’t have the equipment it needs.

Technology is improving all the time – and growing ever more expensive. It makes sense for the private and state sectors to buy equipment jointly and share it. Otherwise, it really will lead to a two tier system where NHS patients can only use older technology.

In an ideal world, nobody would ever have to wait for a doctor’s appointment, or a consultant’s appointment or surgery. The reality might seem harsh and unfair, but failing to live in the real world is why so many countries are financially on their knees. The state simply does not have the ability to raise the money that would be required through taxation to fund the perfect system. You might not like the current system, but your version of utopia is simply unattainable.

Mrs Angry said...

Now you are offending me: I do know that in the x ray case this was a use of NHS equipment, as the article said so. I have already said I have no objection to separate private healthcare for those lucky people who can afford it: but it is utterly unacceptable that as well as such provision the new private exploiters of the NHS are able to use OUR equipment and resources paid for by OUR taxes, and expect priority for their appointments when WE have already to wait weeks for emergency appointments. I think any fairminded person would agree that this is completely unfair.

Anonymous said...

In a nutshell the unspoken Tory NHS manifesto/business/get rich quick plan:-

Research:- Read any private healthcare insurance policy and the are numerous exclusions and omissions.Take all the private hospitals, put them together and there are also numerous exclusions and omissions. All for very good business reasons.

Objective:- Make as much money as possible (for Tory chums) over the shorter term causing the competition (NHS) to be deemed financially unviable over the longer term, while politically and financially preparing the NHS for full privatisation.

Strategy:- Cherry pick lucrative areas of the NHS and offer them back to the NHS to such an extent that the NHS becomes wholly reliant upon this practice as do the general public, while allowing the wealthier where lucrative to queue jump.

Practice:- Reduce in house NHS services primarily to expensive care services funded in part by the wealthy queue jumpers, while in real terms reduce NHS funding and allow patient satisfaction to plummet to amply demonstrate 'all that is wrong with the NHS', both in financial and political terms.

Finale:-. Break up the NHS for the benefit of the healthcare businesses and property developers and pass legislation for the general public to choose their own level of care through private healthcare insurance cover, which will of course be somehow government backed or partially funded... at least for a while.

Obviously, if you are a real Tory chum with oodles of money you won't care. The pretend Tory chums (those who have a bit of money and believe they are real Tories) on the other hand will find out very quickly that their 'bit' of money will be very gladly taken by some of the real Tory healthcare chums.

All in all though, it does help to keep ALL the plebs in their place, even those currently with a self misguided delusions of grandeur and complete disregard for others less fortunate than themselves may literally die penniless and protesting. The question is whether the real plebs of today will care about the 'pretend' and penniless protesting plebs of the future who sold us 'all' out in the first place?

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Private patients also pay their taxes Mrs Angry. And those who also have health insurance are effectively paying twice for their treatment. If every private patient decided to rely on the NHS only, the system would collapse overnight. We should be grateful that so many people who are able to afford private treatment are willing to do so, thereby freeing up state resources for those who cannot.

Yes, it is OUR NHS. It belongs to everyone – those with and without private health care. And it was paid for by the taxes of ALLl taxpayers. You are the one who is being unfair by suggesting that only some people can have access to the NHS and not others.

Mrs Angry said...

I have already stated that I do not object to those that can afford it using private health care: that is to say private in the sense that it does not use NHS resources, and expects prioritisation over NHS patients. I am not going to repeat this ad infinitum.

Jaybird said...

In my extensive experience, it is not true that "Private hospitals are generally better managed and more efficient than NHS hospitals" DCMD. The care is certainly not better or safer.

There are a number of reasons for this:

1. Unlike in the NHS, private doctors do not work in teams, but alone. They do not have ambitious registrars snapping at their heels to keep them up to date.

2. The junior doctor posts in private hospitals are not generally training posts and are therefore filled by junior doctors who could not find work anywhere else. There is no incentive for private doctors to train them.

3. The nursing is often not specialised. There will be a medical ward, but not a diabetic ward, or a hepatology ward.

4. The private hospital needs doctors to admit patients. Doctors who want to work privately need a hospital in which to do it; you cannot do surgery on a kitchen table. If something goes wrong the drs and the hospital have a vested interest in protecting both themselves and each other, esp in some areas of the country where there are limited private facilities available. The patient is not likely to be a repeat customer, so the incentive to put things right for them is limited.

5. The insurance companies are putting huge pressure on doctors to lower their rates (although not passing the savings on to consumers via lower premiums). The drs prepared to do this are the ones the insurance companies will refer to, not necessarily the best but the cheapest. One surgeon I spoke to recently said that over 50% of his private work consisted of second operations on patients who had been under the knife of a single surgeon.

Finally, if by efficient you mean cheaper, then the NHs is the most cost-effective and efficient service there is.

Anonymous said...

We must all be grateful for the private services propping up the NHS..and for the private patients lessening our queues..
Once the NHS is fully running a two tier health service we should be grateful for that too..
A two-tier Britain is being created before our eyes and it's not a pretty sight..

Don't Call Me Dave said...


I did use the word ‘generally’. I have personally experienced very good and very bad treatment in both the NHS and private sector. The thrust of my argument is that the state should not be running hospitals, save for emergency treatment. If you asked an NHS manager how much it cost to perform a hip replacement operation, would they even have a clue?

The state should only provide services that it would not be appropriate or feasible to provide privately. I do not agree with your suggestion that the NHS is cost effective or efficient when it comes to elective surgery. Perhaps if several unnecessary layers of bureaucracy were removed, I would reconsider my opinion.

The state should only run things which

Mrs Angry said...

... and before I am accused of censoring your comments, this is how you left it, DCMD. Did you run out of steam? Thank God.

Anonymous said...

DCMD you do seem to have tested the patience of Mrs Angry and also contested the "extensive experienced" advices of Jaybird.

It seems to me that you have taken nothing material on board and that you would rather put your trust in someone who views you as a wallet, rather than as a patient. While I personally admire your courage (not your faith), there are others who cannot even afford a wallet, but hey let's not even go there, for in your world they don't seem to actually exist, or perhaps that should be 'matter'.

I am also sure that NHS Managers everywhere are also equally offended when you assert they may not have a clue as to the cost of a hip replacement, and quite frankly you should be ashamed of such a ridiculous statement.

To me one thing is for sure; you are exactly the middle class cannon fodder the Tories (in particular) thrive upon and doubtless you believe pretty much everything written in papers like The Daily Mail, or Daily Express.

Why not take out your private healthcare policy (as detailed in my earlier post) and examine the Terms & Conditions, investigate the exclusions and omissions (there is a big difference), check out how your premiums escalate as you age and fully understand your cover. Remembering the policy is not only reviewed annually, it is also renewed annually. Thus it is not cover for life and just like buildings insurance for those living in a flood plain it will not be renewed under the same terms and conditions... if at all. And it matters not, how big your wallet is.

Hopefully you will see the light. Now read my earlier post in more detail and understand the enormity of what you advocate.

If you still fail to grasp the significance, visit America (for this is the system you seem to favour), then go to Canada and ask why it is that the americans NEED to use the canadian health care service.

Alternatively, you could simply say that you just don't care, as long as you are alright.

Mrs Angry said...

Ah: a reasoned comment - what a rare and precious thing. Do call in again.