I’ve been doing some work on developing Unite’s response to the Darzi report and I came across this article in Private Eye. It’s not my usual reading, but it frequently has suprisingly good coverage on the Government’s privatisation of the NHS. I couldn’t sum up the efeect of Darzi and polyclinics any better than the last paragraph of this article.“No current GP practices will be closed,” claimed health secretary Alan Johnson in the Observer about the government’s shake-up of family doctor and primary care services. Try telling that to more than 100 doctors’ practices in and around London, already earmarked for closure to make way for polyclinics. Or to the GP practices which have been swallowed up by the private sector cashing in on so-called Alternative Provider Medical Services Contracts–the new “GP led” health centres. A further 150 will be coming to a town near you soon, courtesy of health ministers and Virgin, Boots, United Health, Bupa and a host of other bidders. At the same time as Johnson’s claims, all 31 of London’s primary care trusts opted for a network of polyclinics. As well as swallowing up family surgeries, the clinics will lead to hospital closures.
Health ministers and managers would have us believe that drop-in superclinics in every town are what the public want, citing an NHS London survey purporting to show that 51 percent were in favour. However, campaigners at Health Emergency point out that, following the £15m Ipsos Mori “consultation”, just 932 people registered support for the doctors operating out of polyclinics, while 966 “tended to agree”. In other words, superclinics had the support of just 0.03 percent of London’s voters.
By contrast, more than I m immediately signed a petition organised by the British Medical Association to protect existing NHS general practice. While drop-in centres may work for minor procedures and treatment for self-limiting illnesses, they won’t work for those who visit their GPs most often – people with chronic illness and disability, the elderly and parents with young children.
But the government isn’t listening to patients, public or staff. Instead it is making sure PCTs bring in its private consultant mates, such as McKinsey, KPMG and UnitedHealth, to help with commissioning. Thus one private company can help buy in health services from another with NHS money. NHS plc indeed.
We won’t have to wait long for the Government to starting pushing this new wave of privatisation through. It’s been reported today that Camden PCT in north London has been in talks with Virgin about setting up polyclinics. The Trust’s defence is even more worrying: The trust said it was “one of a number of companies which are interested in working with GPs”. And in case you thought it was just Camden, they went on to say: “Virgin Healthcare is one of a number of companies which are interested in working with GPs particularly after the publication of Lord Darzi’s Healthcare for London report. They have been talking to PCTs across London and indeed nationally.”
I think the Private Eye cartoon on the state of privatisation and the market in the NHS is very apt.
As well as buying from newsagents, you can also subscribe to Private Eye from their website.