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Only legislation can bring back the NHS

The National Health Action party was formed because we understood that the NHS legislation of the last 25 years has seriously damaged the NHS, and the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act would finally dismantle it. People may not feel all the effects of that throughout the country yet, but they will in the next few years.

We cannot see the necessary legislation to restore the NHS happening under this government, but we will continue to aim for getting our members elected to influence that process in whatever way possible. And we will support MPs like Caroline Lucas who are prepared to keep trying to make the public aware of what is happening.

We have supported legislation to restore the NHS to being a public service, run in the public interest, not as a set of competing businesses, since the party started. Caroline Lucas’ Bill started life as Lord Owen’s Bill. He thought this was such a serious and urgent matter that he turned away from his foreign affairs brief to join the fight to save the NHS.

Local battles against NHS privatisation are won by valiant campaigners, then lost again as the government simply changes the law, as Jeremy Hunt famously did in the Lewisham Hospital. It was her anger at that outcome that drove Dr Louise Irvine, chair of the Lewisham Hospital campaign and member of the NHA executive to stand against Jeremy Hunt in the May 2015 election. Local NHS campaign groups fight magnificent battles, but this is a war that can only be ended by legislation.

The government constantly tell us privatisation is a minor matter and only 6% of contracts are held by the private sector. But that figure comes from 2013, before the Health & Social Care Act had started to take effect and is never updated. Virgin are just about to take over 4 entire community hospitals in Kent. As contracts come to an end (and all public sector provision is now on contract) they have to be put out to tender. But no matter how many new contracts are issued MPs continue to quote the 6% figure.

What is far more worrying, beyond the contracting out of clinical services, are the structural changes decreed by the 2012 Act and being rolled out under Simon Stevens 5 Year Forward View. The NHS is being re-fashioned into Accountable Care Organisations, which are copies of US Medicare. The NHS was designed to give us comprehensive, universal, accessible care available according to clinical need, not ability to pay, funded from the public purse.
The new models are designed to exclude people and deny care. Treatments across the country are already being removed from the NHS 'menu' and more will be removed from April 2016. These include hip and knee replacements, cataracts, hearing aids, vasectomies and IVF. All of these are services of choice for the private sector and people will have to pay to have them. It won't stop there once the principle is established.

If you haven't already then you must watch Prof Allyson Pollocks's TED talk on the Health & Social Care Act. She is the co-author of the NHS Bill. Ultimately we need legislation to overturn the damage of the last 30 years and bring the NHS back into public ownership and public delivery, so it can once again be comprehensive, universal and accessible.

You can find a wealth of facts on our website. http://nhaparty.org/want-to-know-more-about-what-is-happening-to-the-nhs/

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