The National Health Action Party broadly welcomes the announcement from Jeremy Corbyn that he is committed to renationalising the NHS. However, we are not confident that he understands that what is currently happening to the NHS will leave little left to be renationalised.
An NHA party spokesman said, “It is right to talk of adopting policies to address the increasing inequalities of health between the richest and the poorest. The NHS was designed to serve the whole population, rich or poor. The changes currently being enforced through the Sustainability and Transformation Plans will mean that that service is being shrunk and those who can’t pay will increasingly be denied the care they need. The care that remains available may be a long distance away which can make it inaccessible.
What is it that the country wants, and what is it that the various political parties are offering? We think this is the most important question and one which the country has never been given the chance to vote on honestly. Instead the changes necessary to bring about a different kind of health service – hiding behind the ‘logo’ of the NHS – have been put in place by stealth with no explanation as to their purpose.
The result has been quite different from 1948’s joyous and celebrated birth of our NHS. What is being done has more parallels with back-street abortions, hidden and ashamed to say its name. Back street abortions were the product of evil legislation: unnecessary death and poor care will be the product of the evil destruction of our NHS.
If the overriding political objective is to continue to provide a comprehensive, universal, accessible, quality service to everyone, regardless of what's in their wallet, then the public service NHS we used to have does it best. But by the time Simon Stevens' Sustainability and Transformation Plans are completed what is left of the NHS will not be capable of achieving those aims, even if the contracts to the private sector are stopped and the burden of PFI debts are lifted from the trusts, as Jeremy Corbyn is pledging.
If, on the other hand, the objective is to create a service that offers more to those who can pay more, politicians should say so explicitly - that's what choice and co-payments achieve in European models of healthcare. But that’s not the same as our NHS.
Finally, if you want those who can pay to have what they want on demand (regardless of its clinical necessity) and for the poor to have a 'welfare' service, like the USA then that should be stated explicitly too. Of course it has, in a roundabout way, with Jeremy Hunt talking about moving towards the Kaiser Permanente model, ‘Accountable Care’ being featured in the 5 Year Forward View and many references to ‘place based care’. But unexplained references in long documents or in front of parliamentary committees are not the same as an upfront explanation to the public.
If we had that explanation, and those choices clearly laid out, then we could have an open and honest debate about what all this talk of 'sustainability', 'transformation', 'choice' and even ‘renationalisation’ actually means. As it is I’m heartily sick of hearing words being used that are close to meaningless. I want renationalisation of a system that works for all, nothing less will do. That means fighting now to stop service reductions and the sell-off of land and assets.”