Health Secretary Matt Hancock is taking over where his woeful predecessors Jeremy Hunt and Andrew Lansley left off by escalating the Tories assault on the NHS as a public, comprehensive service – and is doing so, as they did, by stealth-privatisation.
Hancock was due to announce today – and tweeted to confirm it – Tory ‘plans to help people take responsibility for staying healthy‘:
This amounts to little more than a plan to push even more of our health service into the hands of corporations, as health campaigner Steven Carne quickly observed:
And it’s a one-way plan – designed to kill off local GP services to ensure that a future Labour government can’t undo this wanton privatisation.
The Tories’ ‘GP at Hand’ digital service provides basic GP services for those who sign up to it. But those who do sign up must deregister from their existing, local GP service. This means that the funds that the local GP practice would receive for having each patient on their books is lost – withering the practice as it loses more and more of its funding.
However, as GP and health campaigner Dr Kailash Chand pointed out, it does not offer services equivalent to those of a traditional, physical GP practice:
Babylon [the provider of GP at Hand] is happy to provide its services to anyone. Except it advises a woman who is, or may be, pregnant that it might not be suitable for their needs; nor for someone with complex mental health conditions; nor for a person with complex physical, psychological and social needs. And those with dementia or other old age conditions related to frailty or end-of-care needs are gently reminded they might need a GP closer to home.
In other words, while the digital service will fully de-fund the local GP practice of the cash it would receive for having a patient on its books, it only provides a partial replacement digitally.
Those who have expensive, profit-killing, complex needs – from expectant mothers to people with Alzheimers – are left looking for a full-service GP that will not exist locally, if the planned digital roll-out ‘succeeds’.
This is a con-trick by the Tories, not an accident. The atrophy of local GP services is policy, not a side-effect – part of NHS boss Simon Stevens’ ‘Five year forward view’.
Labour’s 2017 Conference unanimously passed ‘Composite 8’, a motion that stated:
Conference opposes 5 Year Forward View policy [including] replacing 7500 GP surgeries with 1500 “superhubs”.
A campaigner with experience of the bankruptcy-machine that is US health described the plan to the SKWAWKBOX as being ‘a backward step even in the US‘ and continued:
There’s a cultural aspect to it. They are training people not to access direct care.
The Tories will not, of course, announce with fanfare, “Hey, great news – we’re going to starve your local NHS services until they can’t be revived so we can privatise what you rely on every day as well as your hospitals. And we’re going to do it in a way that means they’re impossible to get back!”
But that’s exactly what they’re doing – under cover of making us all ‘take responsibility’ for becoming ill and steering us all toward online doctors instead of local ones.
All this goes alongside recent decisions to deny IVF treatment to those over 34 years of age and to deny routine surgery to smokers and patients with a body-mass index over 27 as evidence of the Tories’ relentless, ideological assault on our nation’s greatest achievement.
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