NHS HEARTSTOPPER

Staff, patients and even its Trust chair are up in arms at NHS England’s plans to cut Brompton Hospital’s Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) unit, the largest and one of the best in the country. This will make its paediatric intensive care unit unsustainable. Thousands of children with complex respiratory diseases will be affected by the loss of this leading national service provided by the Brompton. It will also see the loss of the Brompton’s world leading adult congenital heart research centre.

NHS England’s reason is that the Hospital doesn’t provide additional paediatric services required under its new standards. Brompton argues that these have been satisfactorily provided over many years by the Brompton’s nearby neighbour Chelsea & Westminster Hospital working closely with them.

Cardiac specialist and Royal Society President Professor B Sethia says that the NHS England proposals are “based on imprecise or no evidence and disregard the excellent outcomes delivered by Royal Brompton Hospital in both adult and paediatric cardiac patients”. At a March 7th public consultation NHS England’s heart disease director Professor Huon Gray admitted that there was “no scientific evidence” to back NHS England’s plan.

Other hospitals will have to reallocate hard-pressed funds needed elsewhere in order to cater for the 14,000 patients affected by the loss of Brompton’s CHD unit. This robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul pressure on hospitals furthers NHS England’s plans to reduce hospitals’ in-house public provisioning and public usage, including beds and A & E units, which are to be more than halved. Faced with long waiting times for treatment patients deemed as non-urgent are being offered more readily accessible private sector services. Whether these are obtained via the NHS or out of an individual’s own pocket it is the public who foots the bill for NHS services being replaced by more costly privately-provided ones.

The private sector isn’t just being given space by government-driven NHS cuts to provide its services at added cost to the public. Top, expensive US business consultants like McKinsey are also heavily involved in drawing up NHS England’s plans, including the cuts. The plans are hugely costly for the taxpayer (estimated costs of North West London’s plans alone are over £1 billion). Furthermore, private sector interests like McKinsey and Optum, a subsidiary of US healthcare/health insurance giant United Health, have been brought into the actual commissioning of services for the NHS. They are substantially responsible for spending taxpayers’ money that benefits expensive private sector providers. United Health and subsidiaries of it are currently facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit for defrauding the US healthcare system.

The transfer of responsibility for our public healthcare from a wholly publicly-owned and run NHS to a US-modelled public/private, business-oriented enterprise is already creating a US-style 2-tier system, a readily accessible one for those who can afford it and a less accessible, rationed one for those who can’t afford it. The CEO of NHS England who is overseeing all this is Simon Stevens, former CEO of global strategy for United Health, for whom he lobbied to get Obamacare watered down.

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