Joe Salmon Blog: Can we trust politicians with the NHS?

10 October 2014

Weekly Blog: Joe Salmon “Can we trust our politicians with the NHS?”

Undoubtedly, the NHS is the world’s number one health service, this has been confirmed by a recent study, Link 2, Link 3. People from the USA, in particular, are envious of us, Dr Jennifer Gunter recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which she speaks of a recent NHS hospital visit.

“……So where do I pay?" I asked Dr. Williams.  The answer: you don't. Perhaps they might bill us, she just wasn't sure.  I was about as dumfounded at her answer as she was at my asking.  I protested that it wasn't fair. We had used services and I was very prepared to pay. I also have insurance that covers emergencies when out of network, so I was pretty sure I would be reimbursed at least some of the visit. However, we were just sent away. They do have my address so it is possible I will get a bill in the mail.
I am very curious what similar care would have cost in the US. The saddest commentary of all is that it is really impossible to tell as billing practices are so bizarre and opaque. My guess is it would be a minimum of $1000 in America for cash (which is egregious)……”

We should be very grateful for the NHS, millions around the world envy the level of healthcare provision we enjoy in Great Britain. The success of the NHS flies in the face of those who fanatically champion privatisation and marketisation whilst despising public services.  The NHS has also prevented private medical companies from making the obscene to a degree, unlike in the USA, where there is no comparable healthcare service. In recent years the NHS has been under constant threat from our corrupt political class who have an interest in dismantling and selling our NHS.  You only have to look at the following bleak facts to realise our politicians are not to be trusted when it comes to the NHS.

  •     145 Lords have recent or present financial connections to companies or individuals involved in private healthcare.
  •     1 in 6 Labour Peers, 1 in 4 Conservative Peers and 1 in 10 Libdem Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare.
  •     75 MPs have recent or present financial links to companies or individuals involved in private healthcare (81% of these are Conservative).
  •     4 Key members of the Associate Parliamentary Health Group have parliamentarians with financial connections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare.
  •     4 Patrons of the pro-reform think tank 2020health have Peers with private healthcare links.
  •     Nearly 40% of the most powerful individuals in healthcare are from companies with links to Lords and MPs.
  •     4 MPs and 1 Lord have worked for Huntsworth Health which is run by a Peer who gave money to  Cameron’s leadership campaign.
  •     25 of the Finalists in the HealthInvestors Awards 2012 have parliamentarians connected to them.
  •     2 companies, DACBeachcroft, Cumberlege Connections, which have Lords as a partner and owner respectively, moved themselves into a position to make money from the reforms as the Lords voted on the bill, and before the bill became an Act.
  •     19 Lords and MPs have financial links to Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
  •     9 Lords and MPs have received payment from a company run by Baroness Cumberlege, called Cumberlege Connections, which is a healthcare training and political networking company.

All were able to vote on the Health and Social Care bill (now an act of Parliament), despite having a prejudicial interest, which would not have been allowed at local council level. Full details can be found here for anybody looking to sleep a little less easy.

The attempts at dividing up our NHS really began under New Labour in 2002 with the creation of foundation hospitals, its worth noting that the Green Party is the only Party committed to bringing these back into the NHS. This is wonderfully documented in ‘NHS SOS’ by Raymond Tallis and Jacky Davis, who both spoke passionately at the Leeds rally of the ‘Call 999 for the NHS’ in August

A reviews of the book can be found here, and it can be purchased here and here, with profits from the book going to the excellent Keep Our NHS Public campaign, who are wonderfully active here in Leeds.

Our politicians seem intent on being dishonest with the public about their stance on the NHS. Senior Tory Michael Portillo has admitted that they lied to the public before the 2010 general election on the NHS.
"They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS."
Video clip of the conversation here 

Sadly this lack of honesty and transparency is not unique to the Tories. Labour health secretaries like Patricia Hewitt who landed a cushy role with a private healthcare company after helping open the NHS up for sale show that the Labour party is just as wedded to selling of the NHS on the sly as any other group of politicians.

Here in Headingley In the weeks before the local election Cllr Jonathan Pryor wrote to residents warning them that the Greens were putting the sexual health services out to tender in Brighton, and couldn’t be trusted with the NHS, unlike Labour who would never do such a thing. Pryor was correct that sexual health services were being put out to tender, but sadly got the location wrong. The Green council in Brighton were in the process of renegotiating the contract for the provision of sexual health services with the current provider in Brighton at the time, and no such tendering process took place there. Meanwhile, in Labour controlled Haringey, the council had recently come clean about intentions to put the service out to tender, as reported here and here and discussed here.
Its very sad that people in Headingley were mislead in this way. To help put things right I’ve posted Jonathan a copy of ‘NHS SOS’ to help make sure that he is better informed in the future, I remember he’s talked passionately about the NHS when we’ve met in the past, I’d like to think he’s just uninformed and in the wrong party rather than wilfully being dishonest about his own intentions and his parties policies. I’ve also asked him to to include a correction in the next piece of propaganda Labour put out, I hope he does the right thing. Below is the text of my letter if you want to read it.

In closing please check out this wonderful video on how we can save the NHS for the common good.

Dear Jonathan

I remember when we met at the local hustings you spoke passionately about how much you valued the NHS, and how defending it from being sold off was one of the main reasons you came into politics. I was really worried when you put out material explaining the Greens were selling off the NHS in Brighton, as it made me question whether I was in the right party as this would be something I’d be not just against, but so uncomfortable with that I could no longer be part of the Green Party if it was an organisation undertaking such activity.

Anyhow after some research I found that this seemed to be a myth about the Greens that somehow crept into a fair whack of material put out by Labour candidates in the run up to the local elections this year. I don’t know if it was dreamed up by some ‘thick of it’ sytlee spin doctor or just an innocent mistake, but regardless it was really sad you didn’t fact check this before putting this information out to the electorate here in Headingley.

I’m not sure how you’ll feel about the fact that it is actually Labour controlled local councils, not Green ones, that are putting sexual health and other auxiliary services out to tender. Maybe you’ll feel as I did that you don’t wish to be part of a party that takes such action, maybe not. I’d like to think you were genuine when you spoke about the NHS being a major factor as to why you came into politics so I’ve enclosed a copy of NHS SOS, it’s a really good book on exactly what the real story of the NHS in recent history is, and how we can safe guard it from those who are genuinely looking to dismantle and sell it off.

Please could you make sure you publish a correction in the next Labour leaflet you put out in Headingley on the matter, I think that would be the right thing to do.

Many thanks
Joe Salmon


EDITORS NOTE: This piece was changed on 24 October to include the video on the NHS