In the midst of Brexit chaos and talk of a general election being immanent, it is vital that we do not lose sight of what Boris Johnson’s government of chaos is doing in other areas of policy. This is especially important when it comes to the National Health Service. Clearly, Johnson and Dominic Cummings have recognised that the public’s willingness to accept further austerity is at the same level of breaking point as our public services. It is recognition of this fact and the need to put distance between himself and the failed premiership of Theresa May, that has underpinned the recent changes in government spending.
But for all of the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s boasts of ending austerity, the real consequences for our NHS after a decade of austerity were laid bare on the same day that Johnson talked up his commitment to funding the health service whilst justifying his decision to suspend parliament. Those consequences came in the form of a letter from the North West London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups (NWLCCCG) which was sent to MPs and other key individuals.
First reported on by the Guardian, what the letter reveals is a plan for cuts and the mass rationing of NHS treatments. Specifically, the letter detailed a plan to save £60 million pounds within the next few months by:
- Significantly reducing referrals to consultants
- Axing some outpatient appointments and replacing them with a phone conversation
- Urging GPs to find “alternative ways” of dealing with patients who need hospital referrals
- Reductions in intravenous feeds through “better prescribing”
- “Repatriation” of some acute treatment from various specialist hospitals to local ones
- And ending the ability of some patients to receive treatment from more than one specialist consultant
The cuts and rationing proposed within this letter is not only worrying for the residents of North West London, an area with a population of 2 million, but also for the entirety of England more generally; as North West London has traditionally been a testing ground for health policy which is then rolled out nationwide.
Reacting to the news, Dr Alastair Fischer, newly elected Co-Leader of the National Health Action Party, responded by saying, "This plan to save money by launching an outright attack on patient treatment and the capacity for GPs to prescribe according to need and their expert opinion is a symptom of just how grave the crisis in our National Health Service has become after nearly a decade of relentless Tory austerity. We desperately need, now more than ever, to remove the Conservatives from power and to properly fund both our NHS and the other invaluable public service upon which all ordinary people rely”.