NHS fees plan is a turning point in privatisation
The kite flown by a rightwing thinktank that everyone should have to pay for access to healthcare (£10 each can save the NHS, 31 March) marks a crucial turning point in switching towards a fully paid-for health service. This process has been long planned. First Blair encouraged and then pressured NHS hospitals into becoming independent foundation trusts, self-standing suppliers within a competitive market. Cameron took this much further by ruling that all NHS functions would be open to tender by any qualified provider. The Lansley health and social care bill, hatched in deepest secrecy before the 2010 election with not a word about it in the Tory manifesto so that it had no electoral mandate, opened the floodgates for full-scale privatisation of the NHS. But always the mantra was repeated that the NHS would remain “free at the point of service”. Now that assurance is being kicked away.
The thinktank authors decry the NHS as “an outdated, cosseted and unaffordable healthcare system”. They don’t mention that the Tory government has deliberately imposed a £20bn cut in NHS funding over the current five-year period to put it under intolerable strain and maybe breakdown in order to pave the way for a gradual switch to a fully paid-for private service, which has always been their secret aim, just like before 1948. Nor do they mention that the NHS, at a cost of 8% of GDP, is the most cost-efficient in the world, half the comparative cost of the private US healthcare system.
We now see why the Tories have been so keen to demean the NHS on every occasion over the past few months. Cue the need to junk the old, failing NHS and announce the dawn of a brand-new, burnished private healthcare system – and at a bargain price of £10 a month. But remember tuition fees: capped at £3,000, then trebled. If every UK adult paid £10 a month, this new tax would raise £5.4bn. Treble that, or more, and we’re talking serious money for the healthcare privateers.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton