38 DEGREES AND THE NHS – MEMBERS’ CONCERNS

Following Deborah Harrington’s alert to me about David Babbs’ Guardian article of August 26th I wrote the attached letter to him which a number of fellow 38 Degrees members from West London have signed. At our 38D Chelsea & Fulham Group meeting on September 2nd by unanimous decision I was asked to do both. The signatories include 38 Degrees supporters from other West London constituencies.

 

To: David Babbs/38 Degrees                                                                             September 2nd 2016                                                                                                                                                                   Dear David,

We write as members and affiliates of 38 Degrees Chelsea & Fulham Group. Whilst we appreciate 38D’s many efforts on the NHS issue we’re concerned at points arising from your article in the Guardian last Friday August 26th and the just published 38D report on the Sustainability & Transformation Plans (STPs) for the NHS which it refers to (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/26/nhs-38-degrees-government-plans).

After successive governments’ undermining of the NHS through inadequate public funding, cutting, fragmenting and dismantling and through demoralising of its staff STPs are supposedly offering a new horizon of ‘rationalised’ public healthcare.

But your article and the 38D report fail to point to what seems to lie behind NHS England’s carrot and stick strategy which the STPs, with their stated priority of applying ‘financial disciplines’ to public healthcare provision, are to carry through.

By offering additional funding for NHS commissioners who effect satisfactory reductions in their deficits and by threatening punitive ‘special measures’ for those that fail to do so, the STPs will be playing to the interests of the private sector.

NHS reductions and cuts in beds and services to reduce deficits will mean the NHS, and increasingly members of the public, having to seek even more provisions and services from the private sector than they already have to thanks to successive governments’ privatisation policies.

And the provision of more public money will simply benefit private companies whose services – with their loans and dividends costs and ‘management’ add-on fees – cost far more than a fully publicly funded and publicly run NHS, as many studies show.

Less accessible services and longer waiting times for public patients than for private patients – caused by the drive for further cuts in publicly provided beds and services – and the far higher costs of obtaining them in the private sector, will push members of the public to pay for private health insurance schemes now being heavily promoted.

These moves from a publicly funded and provided NHS to a far more costly US-style privatised (private health insurance funded and private sector provided) or a European part-privatised NHS won’t be in the public’s best interests. The beneficiaries will be private health insurers and private companies being handed lucrative NHS services and assets – the STPs include the sale of publicly owned NHS land and property.

We’re surprised at you omitting the US influence in the restructuring and privatisation of the NHS of which the STPs are the latest manifestation and which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has openly acknowledged (https://youtu.be/0HyL-riKqqc). Major US business consultancies like McKinsey are centrally involved. US healthcare and health insurance corporations like United Health are established contractors and bidders for NHS services and GPs’ surgeries.

It’s also worrying that NHS England’s CEO, Simon Stevens, is a former top executive for United Health. His responsibilities as President of Global Strategy included lobbying for the watering down of ObamaCare and for public health to be included in the TTIP agreement, against which 38D have played a prominent campaigning role.

You confirm that for its STP investigation, crowdfunded by its followers, 38D commissioned a consultancy company Incisive Health to produce its report. This is worrying as Incisive Health are lobbyists for companies like Virgin Healthcare and the NHS Partners Network, the trade body for NHS privatisers, who have direct interests in the privatisation of the NHS (http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/richard-douglas-incisive-health-nhs-department-of-health).

We’re concerned that your use of Incisive Health for your 38D report may have contributed to the glossing over of what the STPs will likely lead to – the final loss of the NHS as a comprehensive public healthcare system once recognised as providing the fairest, most efficient and cost-effective of any leading nation; and its replacement by a more costly system largely funded and provided for by the private sector whose financial interests will have undue sway over the assessment and treatment of patients.

As a group committed to 38D’s principles it’s vital to us that 38D is not seen or used as a tool of NHS privatisers, their lobbyists and their Parliamentary supporters (who include members of both major parties and others from smaller parties). We feel sure that you will understand our considerable concern on this.

We have asked our Organiser to place a copy of this letter on the 38 Degrees Organisers’ Page so that UK 38D groups organisers can draw their own conclusions.

With best wishes,

Barbara Beese, Julia Campbell, Verite Reily Collins, John Furse, Jim Grealy, Merril Hammer, Karl Hevera, Ian Irvine, Tina Mackenzie, Craig Nicol (Wimbledon), John Ralph, Linda Robinson (Harrow), Teresa Schaefer (Kensington), Heinz Schumi, Margaret Spector, Alexandra Veres (Harrow), Martin Woodford

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