A discussion paper has been released this week through the Conservative Policy Forum seeking the views of Tory activists on major changes to health policy. There is only one reason for these questions to be asked – the Conservative party are seeking to deliver them and want to ensure the support exists among their core. This includes asking activists whether they believe there should be a limit on the number of times a person can visit their GP each year. These questions threaten the basic principles of the NHS.
The Principles of the NHS
The National Health Service was launched by Labour Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, on July 5th 1948, with three founding principles:
- that it meet the needs of everyone
- that it be free at the point of delivery
- that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
The questions addressed to Tory activists indicate an effort to challenge these principles, under the cloak of austerity.
Forsaking Principles under the Guise of Austerity
The woefully leading Local Health Discussion Brief puts forward a number of statements, with activists asked to state their level of agreement or disagreement.
“The ability to see your GP or consultant for a routine appointment in the evening or at the weekend is a luxury the country cannot afford”
This plan would leave the nation without a 24/7 health service. As none of us can timetable our illnesses and health emergencies around 9-5 working hours, it has the potential to negatively impact every person without recourse to private healthcare. It particularly disadvantages those with long term conditions and the elderly, who have a greater reliance on the NHS. These people would still get sick, and still require treatment. This would leave them with two options: go without medical care and advice, or attend their local Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. This would simply shift the burden of care from GP to A&E. It is ill conceived, thoughtless and targeted at those who need healthcare the most. That our government is even thinking about this should ring alarm bells in all of us.
“Families should be responsible for the care of their infirm relatives”
This is an attempt to absolve us of our collective responsibility to care for the aged and infirm among us. Firstly, not everyone who is infirm has family to take care of them. Secondly, the enormous emotional, financial, medical and time commitment required to take care of the infirm is simply impossible for many ordinary working families to manage. While our government ministers enjoy ample wealth, grand homes with rooms to spare, and private medical home help just a phone call away – these privileges of wealth are the preserve of but a small minority.
“Patients who repeatedly miss NHS appointments without good reason should have action taken against them”
Are we seriously suggesting we divert NHS resources to some sort of appointment breaching police force, hounding the sick for evidence of their missed appointments? How would we even agree and verify what constitutes a ‘good reason’?
In terms of punishment, no suggestions are made. A fine, withdrawal of health care privileges, jail?
While it might be wasteful of resources and dangerous to the patient to miss an appointment, the NHS is there to care, not to judge.
“Britain cannot afford to fulfil all the health expectations of all the population all of the time”
This final statement is perhaps the most dangerous of all. It seeks to rewrite the core principle of the NHS – that it meets the needs to everyone. It is also the same lie they’ve been telling about the rest of our public services – we cannot afford it. Yes we can.
Austerity Only Exists for the Poor
The Health Policy statements outlined above are all put forward under the premise that austerity a) exists, b) is necessary and c) will work to return the UK economy to a stable footing. All three of these presumptions are false.
Austerity doesn’t exist. Public spending is not going down, it is simply being diverted from the services designed to help maintain a decent living for all – to ensuring maximum indulgence in living standards for the few. It is a wealth transfer from the have nots, to the have lots.
Austerity is not necessary. We can afford a welfare state, but we cannot afford two. Today, we have a human welfare state and a corporate welfare state. The human welfare state costs us a mere £694bn each year. The UK Government spend a total of £694.89bn a year, to do everything from road building and sanitation, through to healing the sick and teaching our children. £85bn (12% of spending) of this is spent on working age benefits. It makes sense that we spend this proportionate amount, shielding citizens from poverty induced by involuntary unemployment, and support sick and disabled people who cannot work or who bear additional financial costs to work.
The Corporate Welfare Bill is much larger than this. According to the National Audit Office, The UK taxpayer spent £850bn bailing out the Banks in 2008. This is almost twice the nation’s total annual budget. For this amount, the UK could have funded the entire NHS (£106.7bn a year) for eight years , our whole education system for twenty years (£42bn a year) or provided two hundred years of Job Seekers Allowance (£4.9bn a year). This is just one instance of corporate welfare; there are many others.
If there is a conversation to have about reducing our spending, let us start with the Corporate Welfare State.
Austerity will not work. The countries which have adopted Austerity Programmes have seen their economies eviscerated. It is the act of Austerity itself which creates the human misery now associated with these countries. A quick comparison between Greece (adopted Austerity measures) and Iceland (rejected Austerity measures) demonstrates this point.
Greece accepted an £88bn loan from the IMF and the European Central Bank (and the Austerity measures attached) in order to bail out its banks and stay in the Euro.
The economy of Greece has shrunk every year for five years and the Austerity Programme has turned a financial crisis into a humanitarian crisis.
11% of the population now live in ‘Extreme Material Deprivation’ without enough food, heating, or electricity.
This level of poverty has enabled a resurgent fascism. The Far Right Golden Dawn party now has 18 of the 300 seats in the Greek Parliament. Immigrants are being routinely assaulted and killed in racially motivated attacks. Recently, a group of 200 immigrant workers protesting six months of unpaid wages were fired upon by their bosses. The assault left twenty eight with gunshot wounds and it was a miracle that no one lost their life.
Iceland refused to use tax payer cash to honour debts run up by the private sector, jailed the bankers responsible, kicked out the Prime Minister and put him on trial for his part in the crisis, and invited its citizens to write a new constitution.
Iceland’s economy has enjoyed seven straight quarters of growth averaging 2.5% a year
Pensioners receive back around 96.5% of their average net income as pension.
Icelandic society is peaceful and free of social strife.
There is an alternative to Austerity, and it has proved far more successful. There is no case in history where Austerity caused growth in a time of economic crisis.
We Must Save our Public Services from These Monsters
Our government is composed of corporatist, neoliberal zealots who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They will not relent until they have created a means to profit from our every basic need. History has already demonstrated this approach creates unequal societies where a person’s chances of having their basic needs met is based solely on their ability to pay. As unemployment rises, wages fall, pensions are cut, and benefits are slashed – the pool of people able to pay becomes smaller and you are left with a severely unbalanced society. This is where the government is leading us today. We cannot allow ourselves to be led in such a cruel, deluded, and dangerous direction. We must instead follow the better, smarter angels of our nature in pursuit of a society based on core principles of equality, justice and cooperation.
Join the War on Welfare Campaign
Sign to Petition against the limit of GP visits
Join the campaign to Save our NHS
Join every protest, march and campaign you come across to protest this awful government.