Lord Ara Darzi is a very busy man. He’s a colorectal surgeon, a junior Health Minister, he’s produced thoroughly nasty proposals to privatise big chunks of the NHS across England (‘Our NHS, Our Future’), and he’s written comprehensive plans to restructure healthcare across London. That’s assuming that Lord Darzi has done the work himself, of course; the word ‘McKinsey’ features remarkably prominently in the list of contributors to the London plans. McKinsey is the private consultancy firm now crawling all over the NHS.
Darzi’s London proposals are buried in layers of repetitive verbiage – a 134 page document entitled ‘Healthcare for London: A Framework for Action’, a further 50 pages of technical documentation, a large glossy consultation booklet, and a small glossy consultation booklet. There’s a lot of rhetoric about ‘world-class healthcare’ and ‘reducing health inequalities’, but the impact of the proposals will be the precise opposite of these claims. A purely personal view – but I’m disappointed that Unison (or at least the Full Time Officer contingent of Unison) has thrown its weight squarely behind Darzi’s plans. If all our unions united against these plans, we’d stand a better chance of beating them.
The consultation exercise is disingenuous, given that the implications of the plans are so well-hidden. Nevertheless, opponents of these dodgy proposals should respond. The plans outlined here are really bad news for Londoners and health workers, and we shouldn’t let them go unopposed. And the photos in the consultation booklets are at least good for a laugh – everyone in Ara Darzi’s NHS smiles inanely, all the time. This includes the woman in an ambulance having a needle stuck in her arm – she’s still smiling bravely through her pain!
I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to extract the meaning of the proposals from the waffle around them. The plans for London are very, very disturbing indeed. Firstly, there is a very direct attack here on our members, through changes to working hours. Secondly, it’s very likely indeed that privatisation will be a major part of the implementation of the plans (and there is an emphasis on carving up the NHS into neat little bundles, ready for the private sector to take over). Thirdly, the proposals are for a massive reorganisation of healthcare across London; with no commitment to new services bring in place before old services are closed, and no commitment to adequate new funding being made available. This amounts to a giant experiment on the health of Londoners. Fourthly, the proposals themselves make no sense. The figures don’t add up, and the plans are based on some very dodgy sums, but even more worryingly there are very clear clinical risks in what is being proposed. These are plans for worse healthcare for Londoners.
There are some good bits in Darzi’s plans as well – for an increase in the number of trauma centres, for example, and for Academic Health Science Centres. Unfortunately the damaging elements far outweigh the gains.
I presented the response to the Darzi consultation I had drafted to the Unite (Amicus Section) London Regional Council yesterday. I’m very pleased that the Regional Council adopted the document, which now represents the Union’s position on Darzi’s proposals, and the basis for the Union’s formal response. The document is now to be sent to every branch across the Region, and the Regional Council will be taking forward other campaigning work in defence of the NHS. It’s great to see the Union backing our members in Health, and publicly defending our NHS.