The headlines and parliament are dominated by Brexit and nothing else. As a result, we are in a real danger of neglecting to focus on – and talk about – equally important issues affecting the day-to-day lives of citizens up and down the country. The decline of the NHS and its continued privatisation under the hands of one of – if not the – most incompetent Tory government in history is a case in point.
The privatisation of the NHS hit the headlines a few weeks ago when an internationally leading hospital for the treatment of cancer was forced to hand over its PET scanners to a private health care company. A decision with serious implications for patient safety, which went against the advice of medical professionals and has come at a time when the NHS is now missing 5 out of 8 key cancer targets.
But despite the justified outrage when the story initially broke, the steady trickle of privatisations has continued to roll-on as a result of the Health and Social Care Act. The latest victim of the Act has been the Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes (WSBB). A branch of the National Association of Blood Bikes, WSBB operates a 24-hour all year-round service couriering and delivering blood and plasma products on behalf of the NHS. As a charity they received no money from the NHS, and have a proven track record of providing high quality support to NHS Trusts. However, it has now come to light that the charity was excluded from a tendering process – launched in 2016 – by University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) which has no awarded a transport contract to a for-profit company.
This is yet again another example of how the Health and Social Care Act is being used to exclude non-for-profit providers and instead carve out a space for profit-making companies. As a result of the decision, WSBB are now facing the threat of closure. Chairman of the WSBB, Mark Lavery, said the following:
“Through our own enquiries we have found out that UHCW has chose to pay a Company for work we have previously done free-of-charge. We are devastated that the NHS could make such an award without consulting us. We have completed over 7000 calls in all weather conditions since we were founded in 2012 and it is estimated we have saved UHCW nearly £700,000 in that time. All our unpaid volunteers are shocked at the decision. We have committed significant time and effort to grow the group where public donations have enabled us to invest in 5 vehicles to maintains service in all weathers 365 days a year. All that is now in jeopardy”.
Reacting to the news, Dr Alex Ashman, Leader of the National Health Action Party said the following:
“The National Health Action Party stands by Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes. This is yet again another example of how privatisation has become enshrined within the NHS and of how profit is increasingly being put before people. This decision must be reviewed. At a time when the NHS needs all the money it can get – after having been starved of cash for the longest period in its 70-years of life – it makes no sense that this contract has been given to a costly and private provider”