Some months ago, I predicted a series of cuts based on statements by Lansley and a series of articles published by the Telegraph. The next day, Lansley announced the very same measures I’d predicted. I took no pleasure in being right.
The Telegraph is a proven and consistent collaborator with Conservative and corporate interests with regard to the NHS, regularly co-ordinating propaganda campaigns to smooth the way for cuts and profit-generating measures, including the whole Health and Social Care Act forced through under Andrew Lansley, even to the point of instructing its sub-editors to leave aberrant sections in articles where they didn’t fit, to erode public affection for the NHS.
In October, after the Tory conference, I wrote an analysis of Jeremy Hunt’s speech to the conference and how this speech, together with more reports by the Telegraph, gave away the form that the Tories’ next attack on the NHS would take.
I predicted that the new attack was going to be based on a reconfiguration of services and funding toward areas with higher numbers of older people – a return to the idea floated by Andrew Lansley earlier this year and then set aside, but only temporarily as it turned out.
As wealthier people live longer on average, this would create a perverse situation whereby wealthier areas would receive more funding while poorer ones – where life expectancy is shorter and which therefore have the greater need for health investment to improve it – would be deprived even further. And ot wouldn’t be ‘blanket’ good news for elderly people, as those in poor areas would actually have less care available than they do now because of reduced funding based on there being fewer of them than in wealthy areas.
Unfortunately, it turns out I was right again. Yesterday, the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) – the body which, under the 2012 Health Act, will decide NHS funding allocations from next April – announced that it was going to discontinue the inclusion of poverty as a factor in the calculation of health-funding allocations.
This decision is the first step in the government’s plan to switch health spending away from the areas that need it to prevent people dying early toward those who can already expect to live longer because they’re wealthier, living in better conditions and are generally healthier anyway, with the aim, as Hunt said in his conference speech, of:
transform[ing] the culture of the system – to make it the best in the world at looking after older people
To any right-thinking person, such a change is very obviously fundamentally unjust. However, for the Tories it is extremely convenient. It allows them to limit and even reduce NHS spending, while maintaining health provision – and therefore higher levels of approval for the government – in areas likely to vote Tory at the expense of poorer areas almost certain never to vote in a Tory MP anyway.
A ‘win-win situation’ – if you’re prepared to call condemning already-disadvantaged people to an early death in order to pamper the already-privileged a ‘win’.
This decision will cost lives and maintain a deep-rooted division between the health outcomes of the rich and those of the poor. And it’s only the beginning – we should certainly anticipate more steps along this road from a Tory-led government that is proving itself more than willing to spout platitudes about fairness while promoting injustice.