Many of us think of the NHS in terms of hospitals, cancer, cardiac arrests and blue light emergencies. Actually most NHS care is a lot less exciting than this. Around 80% of NHS appointments are in ‘primary care’ – the unglamorous community services offered by GPs, health visitors, district nurses, speech and language therapists and so on.
This is the ‘bread and butter’ work of the NHS. It doesn’t make for good TV, so we don’t have the primary care equivalent of Casualty or Holby City. But primary care is about ensuring quality of life for elderly people, people with disabilities, people with terminal illnesses, children.
The Government, through a vicious set of proposals called ‘Transforming Community Services’, is now trying to strip community healthcare out of the NHS. Short term, we’ll see a return to the 1930s – healthcare provided by a ragbag of charities, social enterprise companies and private companies. Longer term, it is a virtual certainty that big business will dominate the NHS ‘market’.
A brief commentary on the proposals is here. This was prepared for a Unite meeting tomorrow. I’m working at the moment on a much more detailed analysis of this. I regard ‘Transforming Community Services’ as the most serious threat the NHS has faced yet. The damage that will be done to the NHS (and to NHS workers) is immense.
It is essential that our trade unions oppose this nonsense at national level. We cannot possibly have the level of fightback we need if it is left to trade union activists to resist a national attack at local level.