Endgame: Tories bring NHS ‘unthinkable’ out of hiding


For years now, this blog and others have been warning that the Tories’ plan for the NHS is to end it – at least in any meaningful sense. Their claims that the NHS was ‘safe in our hands’ have been nonsense even before they were spoken, as the Conservatives were planning the withering of the NHS long before they became the leading party in coalition government in 2010.

As Noam Chomsky observed, the methodology is underhand but not complicated:

That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.

But privatisation is not the ‘endgame’. Paying taxes to fund the NHS still means paying taxes – anathema to rich Tories. Making us pay for our treatment to private providers – that’s the endgame.

Private capital expects to make a profit – and to pay minimal taxes, so ‘free at the point of need’ is an obstacle to be removed for such people. Selling off record chunks of the NHS is just foreplay – the ‘end-game’ is for us to ‘pay at the point of need’ for what we’ve already paid for.

Prising our fingers loose from our greatest treasure is not a short process – so the Tories, both in Westminster and in the media, have for years now been working undermine public trust in the NHS.

Now they feel – wrongly, I think – that the ‘plan which must not be named’ can come out of the closet. But they won’t just announce it as government policy all in one go. The idea will be trailed, tested, toes dipped in the water – all with the aim of gradually introducing it into mainstream thought.

And so it starts – the beginning of the end-game, when the Tories finally put into words what they’ve intended all along. All couched in plausible deniability, of course.

Yesterday, in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh was the person designated to chip the first breach in the wall:

As we are unlikely to reach my question on the Order Paper, perhaps the Minister could now direct his attention to the east midlands where we have problems with A&E, particularly for people in rural areas. For those of us who rely completely on the NHS, this is obviously a matter of vital concern. I just wonder whether we should not have an honest debate about this and recognise that we have an ageing population. Our A&E times are stressed and we may have to either tax people more or even think the unthinkable and charge people for—[Interruption.] See, it is unthinkable, but we have to concentrate on the essentials. Let us have an honest debate about the finances of the NHS.

Of course, ‘honest debate about the finances of the NHS’ is the last thing the Tories want. They’ve spent too much time and assiduous effort constructing and maintaining the fallacy that they’ve increased NHS funding and have provided the ‘money the NHS asked for’ – defending it even when officially rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority and the Commons Health Committee.

Even when the backlog of essential NHS repairs has risen by 69% in just 12 months because of desperate underfunding:

What they want is for the idea of payment (or sometimes ‘co-payment’) for health services to be introduced into public discourse, so that ‘the unthinkable’ gradually starts to be the ‘very much thought’ – as it’s been for them since the NHS began.

The excellent Angela Rayner, among many others, spotted the trick and held it up to the light:

as did Shadow Health Secretary John Ashworth and others.

But they need our help. As the Tories try to make payment for health very ‘thinkable’ indeed, we need to highlight what they’re up to and to focus on why it must remain not just unthinkable but unthought. By everyone except the Tories, of course – they’ve been at it for decades.

It’s a fight we must conduct on the street, online and at every ballot box. If we let them take the NHS, it will be almost impossible to get back.


  1. Sent from my iPad I worked in Edgewater General Hospital when the Griffiths report was done, this demonstrated that the services provided were what they should be but it was closed and Barnet Hospital upgraded. I left then as was returning to N Z. Was this part of it?


  2. Hi

    As well as the campaign you need a way of ensuring the waits and delays don’t get out of hand. Fortunately there is a way – and it doesn’t cost a fortune either. Visit http://www.improvementscience.net/blog/ for a taster and http://www.saasoft.com for the method.

    Mike Davidge
    Suite 2, Adam House, 7-10 Adam Street, London WC2N 6AA
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    E: miked@nhselect.org.uk

  3. The NHS has to clear up mistakes made by private hospitals who do not have A&E s. If something goes wrong during or after an operation in a private hospital, the patient is rushed to an NHS A&E. By not funding their own A&E s they are saving millions of pounds. The private health care system should be required to pay funds towards the A&E s in NHS hospitals.

  4. The first thing to recognise is that the deliberate underfunding is all part of the privatisation programme, as explained by Noam Chomsky.
    The second is that we already have the money to properly fund the NHS, no matter how much it costs, we can still afford it, our country has its own fiat money system, which means the government is the creator of money and we can spend that into the economy to infinity.

    Our country unlike Greece that does not have its own sovereign currency….. which is constrained by the European Central Bank as it issues the Euro…. where we can never ever go broke.

    We have the money, it’s lying Neo-Liberal politicians that pretend we don’t, and the people of this country need to wake up.

    For those that doubt what I say, or need evidence to back it up, then look no further than the “Banking crash”, where Government found that they could print £375 billion to bail out the very banking system which were the culprits that crashed the economy in the first place, at a time when the whole world financial sector had seized up.

    We never have problems financing other countries wars.

    We can spend £35 billion at the behest of a government whim.

    We can find in excess of £100 billion and climbing to build Nuclear submarines.

    And without having to make an even longer list, when Tory votes were at stake in the floods on the Somerset Levels, after the Tories cut the Environment agency staff who were predicting these catastrophes, Cameron stated publicly, that “money was no object”, they would do whatever was necessary… at the same time as he was cutting disabled peoples benefits.

    Money has never been and never can be the problem, it is lying politicians that are the problem.

    The Tories lied about public expenditure running out of control under Labour, they blamed the so called deficit on Labour, when prior to the crash, the deficit was actually within the EU guidelines of 3% of GDP, and it was the Tories that were the highest average spenders on public expenditure, mostly due to high unemployment created by them.

    Peoples confusion of course came about because of New Labour’s poor defence of their own record. But that’s another subject.

  5. “But they won’t just announce it as government policy all in one go. The idea will be trailed, tested, toes dipped in the water – all with the aim of gradually introducing it into mainstream thought.”

    Exactly, and this was precisely the agenda of the ‘focus groups’ that The King’s Fund ran in 2005 (based on a Pfizer initiative), where they “also explored areas of choice that do not yet exist in the UK – most specifically the use of direct payments and the ability to choose to go directly to a specialist without first seeing the GP”.
    See note 3 in: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/press/press-releases/public-supportive-moves-increase-choice-government-must-do-more-make-it-reality

    When they talk about increasing “choice” it is usually to disguise their real motive, profit.

  6. The Tories cannot be allowed to dismantle or sell off our NHS. Unfortunately so many people cannot believe our NHS is being sold off; they can’t feel it, they don’t see it because of the insidious stealth tactics of the Tories. For those who are fortunate with their health and rarely use the NHS it is difficult to see its rapid deterioration until either illness or older age hits.
    Agree, that those of us who are aware of what Tories are doing, we must shout loud enough on the streets of the UK.

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