Professor Stephen Hawking’s recent coming out in The Guardian on the privatisation and Americanisation of the NHS has clearly touched the privatisers’ nerve judging by the speed and vitriol of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s response. That a figure of Hawking’s standing has publicly raised the ‘Americanisation’ question is an important moment in the campaign to save the NHS.

The letter I sent The Guardian yesterday following my filming for GROUNDSWELL at Hawking’s Royal College of Medicine last Saturday has been published today:

Professor Stephen Hawking’s recent concerns about the privatisation and ‘Americanisation’ of the NHS are unsurprising. Jeremy Hunt’s vitriolic denial and defamation of his concerns, shared by the public, is also no surprise given his track record as Health Secretary.

The quango NHS England’s ‘reconfiguring’ of the NHS is based on an American idea – the Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) – which plans to allow for extended private sector control in the running and provision of NHS and social care services.

ACO’s are the natural conclusion of the current 5 Year Forward View which seeks to shrink the NHS and operate in a similar fashion to the notoriously costly and flawed American system. Sustainability and Transformation Plans have been drawn up by expensive business consultants with extensive US influence such as Optum, a subsidiary of US private health provider/private health insurer United Health. It is an odd coincidence that NHS England’s CEO Simon Stephens is a former United Health top senior executive.

America’s involvement aside, the administration of the internal NHS market and privately provided services, with consultants, lawyers, accountants, bankers, billing agents etc mean that privately provided services are far more expensive than a state governed service.

Hospital PFI’s (Private Finance Initiatives) have already evidenced the wasted billions that private corporate interference is costing the NHS and taxpayer. Removing all the privatisation apparatus from the NHS would allay Prof. Hawking’s concerns, which are shared by many.

The savings that this would thereby make would cover the lion’s share of the costs of the extra demands facing the NHS (the ageing population etc) which are blamed for making the NHS ‘unaffordable’.