While everyone’s attention has been focused across the Atlantic following the election of the appalling Donald Trump, vital things are happening here to almost no notice whatever.
Ironically, since they forced a massive top-down reorganisation on the NHS under the ‘Health and Social Care Act 2012′, the government has steadfastly refused to treat the NHS and social care as a single whole, even though they plainly are. Maintaining this stance allows them to maintain the fiction (in fact an outright lie) that NHS funding is increasing – while burdens on the NHS are increased massively by huge cuts to social care resulting from drastic reductions in funding to local councils.
But while the government may politically insist that the two are separate, the huge corporations that are devouring the NHS are more than happy to treat the two as one thing.
It was announced today that Virgin Care, which has already acquired swathes of GP surgeries and vast NHS contracts, is about to seize a major contract to provide adult social care in Bath.
A wide range of services will be affected, including:
- adult social care
- continuing healthcare
- children’s community health
- public health nursing
- integrated re-ablement
- speech and language therapy
The contract supposedly contains a requirement for “any financial surplus to be reinvested in services” – but as Virgin is a profit-making enterprise, ‘any financial surplus’ will only be measured after they’ve taken their profits, which will certainly be substantial.
The contract was awarded to Virgin in preference to a bid by a non-profit incumbent. Self-evidently, any bid by a profit-maker that can be more competitive than a non-profit can only do so by cutting corners, cutting wages or cutting staff/services – any of which are detrimental to the local people and economy.
In addition, as services have previously been provided by the not-for-profit entity, large numbers of staff will have to be “TUPE’d” across to Virgin Care.
Bath council has insisted that “anyone transferring to another organisation under TUPE [transfer of undertakings (protection of employment)] regulations will retain their existing terms and conditions, pay, and pension”.
But this is completely disingenuous. As the SKWAWKBOX revealed years ago, TUPE protections are transitory and in fact are no real protection at all – especially when it comes to healthcare. Which means that pay, hours, benefits and pensions can be cut.
And by a large employer, that will have a huge impact on the local economy, far in excess of any theoretical up-front gains.
This kind of piecemeal predation of the NHS – including social care that has an enormous effect on the feasibility of ‘front-line’ NHS services – is going on continually. But the media and the government will rarely allow much attention on it.
As the famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”. The government is determined to make sure this is true for the NHS.
And companies like Virgin – unlike the government – have no qualms about including the social care we will all eventually rely on if we’re fortunate enough to live long enough – on that menu.