Home > Staff Zone > Old page: NHS FAQs

Old page: NHS FAQs

What’s wrong with privatising the NHS?
We can't afford the NHS
What’s the fuss, the government say they are not privatising the NHS?
Why do I have to wait so long at A&E?
Why can’t I get an appointment with my GP? Why don’t they stay open longer?
Aren’t immigrants making it harder for British people to use the NHS?

What’s wrong with privatising the NHS?

No privatised service delivers more than the NHS for less than the NHS without also excluding the poor and sick from its best treatment options. Privatisation fragments care and diverts funds. Companies need to maximise profits: if it pays, they cream off profits; if it doesn't they dump the contract – or the patient – leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces. 

  1. It costs so much more to run a marketised system because of the administrative and legal costs involved in contracting health services. Money ends up in the pockets of lawyers and accountants and is taken away from frontline care.
  2. It reduces quality because private companies are looking solely to make money. When 60% of the costs of healthcare is on staff salaries, the only way to make money is to cut staff, and then the quality goes down.
  3. It leads to fragmentation – most of the gains in cancer, stroke and heart attack care in this country in the last decade or two have come from collaborative work; you can’t have collaboration if you’re all supposed to be competing with each other.
  4. Private companies cherry pick the profitable areas of healthcare, so it undermines and undercuts the NHS, leading to a breakdown of NHS services. This leads to hospitals finding themselves in financial deficit and under threat of closure.
  5. Private contractors hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ which prevents patients getting the true picture. The chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, says that even she can’t break through their wall of secrecy.

We can't afford the NHS

The NHS is not unaffordable – we spend the least of all the other G7 nations on healthcare. The NHS is being deliberately pushed to the edge of collapse by underfunding to make it "privatisation-ready":  £20 billion of cuts already, with another £30 billion by 2020. Meanwhile billions are being wasted on "marketisation" and paying interest on bad PFI deals. 

  1. International studies have consistently shown the NHS to be one of the most cost-effective health services in the world.
  2. A recent Commonwealth Fund study showed that the UK saves more lives for each pound spent, as a proportion of national wealth, than any other country looked at apart from Ireland.
  3. Recent evidence from Oxford University and Stanford University, as well as the IMF, have proven that health spending actually increases economic growth by keeping the workforce healthy and generating a fiscal multiplier effect by increasing employment and redistributing wealth to poorer parts of the country, reducing inequalities

What’s the fuss, the government say they are not privatising the NHS?

Up to £5 billion of commissioning suppport services and £1.2 billion of cancer care services currently up for grabs and 70% of NHS contracts handed to the private sector since April 2013.

  1. In the biggest deal ever, a contract worth up £5 billion is being advertised by NHS England to provide commissioning support services (the bodies who handle the administration and purchasing of services by local CCGs)
  2. A £1.2 billion contract to run frontline cancer services and care of the terminally ill is being put out to tender in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
  3. Since April 2013, over £13bn worth of contracts to run or manage NHS services have been put up for grabs. Nearly 70% have gone to the commercial  sector, less than half of that to the NHS and a couple to charities.
  4. 10% of GP surgeries are now run by private companies.
  5. You may not even realise that your GP’s surgeries or NHS services are have been sold off to the likes of Virgin and Serco because they go on using the trusted and familiar NHS logo.

Why do I have to wait so long at A&E?

The A+E crisis is due to this government’s health policy: patients are stuck in A+E because they:

  • can't be admitted to wards - as hospital beds have been axed
  • can’t be discharged - due to Local Authority and social care cuts
  • can’t be treated quickly enough – as there aren’t enough emergency care doctors

Why can’t I get an appointment with my GP? Why don’t they stay open longer?

GP funding has been cut by nearly £1 billion. Many surgeries are facing financial collapse, the service is 10,000 GPs short, and government plans may leave some areas with no GP at all.

Aren’t immigrants making it harder for British people to use the NHS?

Losses due to so-called health tourism are a fraction of one per cent of the NHS budget – a drop in the ocean of underfunding. But it's a useful lie for UKIP – who want your vote but not to tell you about its own plans to privatise the NHS – and for the government as a smokescreen for its own failings. 

It is very convenient for both the government and parties like UKIP and the BNP to blame immigrants for the funding problems of the NHS but it's simply not true.

The actual cost of people coming to Britain specifically for free healthcare (as opposed to falling ill or having an accident while here on holiday) is estimated to be around £70 million – which is a lot of money, but just 0.06% of the total NHS budget. So even if it the practice was wiped out completely, the NHS underfunding problems would remain. That is the truth.

If you're waiting for your GP and a person of a different colour goes in before you its easy to think "If they weren't here, I'd be seen sooner." If you go to A&E and the people sitting next to you are conversing in a language you don't understand, it's easy to feel they must be interlopers. You're sick, you're stressed, you're not thinking straight.

But the politicians are thinking straight. They have the facts, they have the figures, but they'd rather play on your fears and anxieties to gain political advantage than own up to where the blame really lies. So now the government is planning to spend more money checking up on foreign patients than it can ever hope to recover in savings. It costs the NHS, it put more pressure on practitioners, but it's useful PR in their desperate electoral fight against UKIP. Meanwhile UKIP are rubbing their hands that focusing on immigrants stops voters noticing their preference for privatising the NHS.

So where do the much larger sums being bandied about – nearly 30 times the real figure – come from? The Daily Mail was first to float the idea of £2 billion being paid out for immigrants. This is still less than 2% of the health budget of course, but this vastly inflated figure includes all foreign visitors, including temporary migrants who are already paying for the NHS through their taxes like the rest of us.

In fact, the evidence shows most Europeans come here to work and have a strong work ethic.and are less likely to rely on state hand outs than Britons.  They pay far more into the NHS than they will ever get sick enough to need back.

And what of the much-talked-of "health tourists"?  They do exist, but they are also a net income for the NHS. Health tourism is a recognised multi-billion-pound global industry in which people go abroad to pay for private healthcare they cannot afford, or cannot get, in their own country. Whatever you may think about the use of NHS facilities for private healthcare in any circumstances, many NHS hospitals do make considerable profits from this lucrative trade.



Check Also


Election Manual

An excellent manual describing how to organise an election campaign can be found at this …