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The Friday Surgery

The Propco scandal is the new low in government brutality- finally laying the NHS ‘conspiracy theory’ to rest

It was the final straw.


The news that the 5 Year Forward plan’s new Sustainability and Transformation Plans included charging the NHS market rents for its own properties.  Struggling GP surgeries and Community Hospitals owned by PropCo will now have to find in the region of £60million a year from their diminishing incomes.


To put public property into a private company and then charge the public for what it used to own itself. The final straw.
But let's start at the beginning with the innocent question asked by my friend last week.


“Why are GP waiting times so long, Carl”?


Well in short there are two answers my friend’s recent question- we’ll call them the ‘Occam’s razor’ answer and the ‘Conspiracy Theory’ answer. And those with an active interest in the recent travails of the NHS are usually positioned somewhere along a sliding scale between these two extremes. At one end the crisis in the NHS can be explained following the principle of William of Occam- that is, the simplest explanation is usually the best. In our case, we have a government committed to running the NHS as best they can but their need to provide a balanced economy means that tough austerity cuts are necessary. The NHS is a victim of this. In this account our NHS is being regrettably underfunded. Poorly managed, poorly funded and poorly supported but the driving force is the ultimate success of the NHS.


Now at the conspiracy theory end of the continuum we see a different take. Here we have an NHS conspiracy whose magnitude sits comfortably with some of the classic historical conspiracy theories. Right up there with the faked US Moon landings, the reptilian elite that are trying to enslave us and Elvis faking his own death. At the conspiracy theory end of the continuum, the NHS is not being underfunded, it is being defunded. Here the government is deliberately withholding funds to let the service collapse in on itself, thus ushering in the era of their private healthcare utopia.


I’m a natural Occam’s razor kind of guy and so when faced with a conspiracy my knee jerk reaction is to reach for the evidence to dismiss the wilder fantasies that people use to account for the modern world. It’s time to survey the evidence. I took 5 examples to try to find my way to Occam’s razor.


  1. The NHS Land sell-off. Despite worsening waiting times and overcrowding, patient safety being breached, and already the second lowest number of beds per person in Europe, there is a mass sell-off of NHS land that could be otherwise used to ease the overcrowding crisis. Okay it’s not a good start for William of Occam. The razor is looking a bit blunt. Still this could just be mismanagement, it doesn’t mean we’re in ‘Bruce Lee faked his own death to join the Chinese triads’ territory.


  1. Junior doctors. Hmmm. Okay this isn’t good. The government has picked a public and damaging fight with one of the professions essential in keeping the NHS afloat. And they did it based on research interpretations that have been completely discredited. All to strip costs via an unworkable contract to provide an unnecessary 7 day NHS. Although this seems utterly senseless, we’re not yet in ‘hidden flying saucer crashing at Roswell in 1947’ area yet. I pressed on to look at yet more evidence to try figure out if this was deliberate or not.


  1. The sheer weight of the cost slashing. In 2011/12, 24 per cent of trusts and foundation trusts overspent. The latest figures for 2014/15 suggest this is between 40 to 50 per cent. David Cameron is likely to preside over the largest sustained fall in NHS spending as a share of GDP since 1951. The UK spends less of its gross domestic product on health than Greece or Portugal, spending 5 percent of GDP on health, compared to an OECD average of 8.9 per cent. And against this backdrop, this year George Osborne actually cut the public health budget by 20 percent despite NHS promises.


  1. NHS on its knees. And these cuts continue to be made against a backdrop of a visibly struggling service. Cancer waiting times targets missed, more than 300 patients a day having operations cancelled due to rising pressure on NHS bed availability, NHS bosses admitting that A&E is creaking under pressure as hospitals struggling to cope, ambulances unable to even drop off patients and with a shortage of ambulances meaning police regularly having to take people to hospital.


  1. The NHS improves economic growth. Recent evidence shows that far from being a drag on the economy, there is strong evidence that a healthcare multiplier effect means that spending improves economic growth.


And then, with Propco, it dawned on me.


Given all the evidence, the deliberate destruction of the NHS is the simplest explanation. William of Occam was alive and kicking.  This is not a conspiracy theory. This is a conspiracy in plain sight. This has nothing to do with the illuminati, Colonel Gaddafi kidnapping Shergar and Marilyn Monroe’s CIA assisted murder. This is not incompetence at play here (although it is that too). It is not an ideological fixation with saving money regardless of the consequences (although it is also that). It is the systematic destruction of a world leading health service to be managed through the combination of PR, privatisation and blaming the starved service itself for ‘failings’.


The problem is that many people see such an idea (as I did) as scaremongering conspiracy talk. The government understand this. Our task now is to use velvet gloves to callously pull those rose tinted spectacles away- to start calling it as it is, as I did with my friend in my office.


So this is a call for all Occam’s razorites out there, let’s call it as it is. The government are deliberately obliterating the British National Health Service.



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