Don’t take the NHS away

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has called for David Cameron to scrap the health and social care bill, due for its next House of Lords debate on 8th February. You can use WriteToThem to let them know your views.

Also: sign the e-petition Drop the Health Bill.

Andrew Lansley claimed he wanted to put an end to “top-down reconfigurations of NHS services, imposed from Whitehall rather than led by the local NHS”. That’s exactly and precisely what this Bill is.

The public have also been told by the government that the bill will:

  • save money,
  • give local control over services,
  • put doctors in charge,
  • empower patients,
  • and improve outcomes.

Each of these assurances conceals policies that head in precisely the opposite direction. Unpicking the spin – PDF

James Meek writes:

In their book The Plot against the NHS, Colin Leys and Stewart Player argue that, having failed to persuade the public and the medical establishment under Margaret Thatcher that the NHS should be turned into a European-style national insurance programme, the advocates of a competitive health market gave up trying to convince the big audience and focused on infiltrating Whitehall’s policymaking centres and the think tanks.[*] As a result the government and the cast Leys and Player call ‘marketeers’ – private companies, lobbyists, pro-market think tankers – publicly praise the NHS, while taking incremental steps to turn it into an NHS in name only: a kitemark, as one prominent marketeer puts it in the book. (London Review of Books, 22nd September 2011)

The RCGP conducted a poll of their members and three-quarters of respondents said they wished to see the Lansley bill withdrawn. The RCGP has written to Andrew Lansley:

“We remain unconvinced that the bill will improve the care and services we provide to our patients.”

The college initially wrote to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to voice the concerns its members but decided to take further action after receiving his response, and following the Government’s tabling of amendments on Wednesday.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said: “This decision was not taken lightly, but it is clear that the college has been left with no alternative. We have taken every opportunity to negotiate changes for the good of our patients and for the continued stability of the NHS, yet while the Government has claimed that it has made widespread concessions, our view is that the amendments have created greater confusion.

Our position has not changed, and the concerns we expressed when this bill was at the White Paper stage 18 months ago have still not been satisfactorily addressed.

“Competition, and the opening up our of health service to any qualified providers will lead not only to fragmentation of care, but also potentially to a ‘two tier’ system with access to care defined by a patient’s ability to pay.” Telegraph, 2nd February 2012

The health minister Simon Burns claims that the govenment have been in touch with GPs “up and down the country” and that GPs are “beginning to engage in having the powers to determine the care that needs to be commissioned for their patients.” But we know that this government lied about the support they claimed they had from disability groups for their cuts to the DLA: is there any reason we should suppose Simon Burns is doing more than repeat the standard trope “The lurkers support me in email“?

The NHS provides healthcare to all in the UK. As a national healthcare system, it ranks in the top fifteen: on equality of access and universality of access, the NHS is first in the world, and very cost-effective. It’s one of the great communal creations of Great Britain, a brilliant work of decades that would stand as a solid pillar in the Unionist cause… except that what the Tories are doing, with LibDem support, is tear it down.

From Ben Goldacre (Bad Science Ben) on Twitter, in four tweets:

In case you don’t understand NHS bill: GPs know they’re being set up to fail by being given commissioning powers. Those are specialist skills. After GPs fail, private commissioning expertise will be needed: large private corporations, which will come to operate like health insurers. These large bodies, like public/private insurance companies, will be able to pick & choose patients. Note no geographical responsibility in Bill. Small differences will emerge in what services they offer. Top up plans will become available. And that, kids, will be that. (1, 2, 3, 4)

In the US, for various historical reasons, “pro-life” – political opposition to specifically women-orientated healthcare – is a tornado spinning a destructive swathe across the American healthcare landscape. (In principle, “pro-life” is supposed to be “anti-abortion”. In practice, “pro-life” tends to include opposition to: provision of contraception to women, provision of HPV vaccines to girls, provision of sex/relationships education to high school students, provision of welfare services to single mothers – opposition to a whole array of healthcare/welfare services and information.)

In the UK, thanks to an underlying principle that NHS services are available free at point of use and to all who need them, the pro-life winds that blow tend to have small room to blow up into a tornado. Take the NHS away, create the kind of landscape that the Tories desire, where healthcare for the poor is dependent on nonprofits, where health insurance companies can pick and choose their customers and the care that they will pay for – and this kind of perfect storm that blew up on Tuesday can easily happen here.

Kivi Leroux-Miller, a nonprofts online marketing specialist, writes about the storm from her professional perspective:

Yesterday afternoon [1st Feb], and continuing into today, I believe we are witnessing the accidental rebranding of what is surely one of America’s biggest and most well-known, and even well-loved, nonprofit brands.

Komen for the Cure, it seems, is no longer a breast cancer charity, but a pro-life breast cancer charity. ….. Earlier this month, I urged nonprofits to decide how they are different, to embrace that, and forget the rest. Previously Komen stood out as a tremendous organizer and mobilizer of women across the political spectrum who would raise money like crazy for them. They kept it nice and simple, and non-controversial. Wear that pink ribbon and raise money to fight breast cancer. The abortion debate was nowhere in sight. It was all about the breasts, and not about the uterus. And I think that’s one thing that made them different — Komen was an organization that dealt with women’s health issues without getting caught up in the abortion debate, like most women’s organizations end up doing.

No more. They took a deep dive into the hot swirling waters head first (but apparently eyes shut). No matter what they do from here on out, they will be forced to pick sides, and that’s just awful for the Komen brand. (The accidental rebranding of Komen for the cure, 1st February, 2012)

From the point of view of a pro-choice feminist, Amanda Marcotte writes:

Susan G. Komen—who purport to be a women’s health charity—[are] abandoning their alliance with Planned Parenthood, even though 17% of Planned Parenthood’s services are cancer screening and prevention. They claim that it’s because Planned Parenthood is under investigation, but it seems that excuse was ginned up because it was easy cover for caving into anti-choice nuts. The investigation has been launched as a nuisance investigation by an anti-choice congressman, and is not compelled by any sincere concern that Planned Parenthood is violating the law with its funds. It’s completely obvious that they’re caving into anti-choice activists, and specifically, as I noted at Slate, into the ridiculous idea that you can separate “good girl” health care from “bad girl” health care, the latter being everything from cervical cancer prevention and treatment to abortion. And yes, before we forget, it’s all lumped together with the anti-choice movement now. That’s how they made the HPV vaccine an issue in the Republican primary, because it’s widely believed that preventing cervical cancer gives girls “license” to be sluts.

In other words, a supposedly anti-cancer charity just threw their lot in with people who believe that cancer shouldn’t be prevented if it’s linked to sexually transmitted diseases. Objectively pro-cancer, at least for women they deem slutty, i.e. about 95% of us. (Anti-choicers are modern-day witch-hunters, 1st February 2012)

From the other side, the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute are sending out an email which the Bad Catholic blogger at Patheos quoted in full and expanded on:

a general request to all their supporters around the world: Do it right now. Do not wait. Write right now to news@komen.org and say (in English) “Thank you for defunding Planned Parenthood.”

Many thanks for your help. This is really important. They have taken a brave stand and we have to stand with them.

He added:

I am ecstatic, by the way, that the Komen Foundation cut ties with Planned Parenthood. Now I don’t have to be all awkward when my friends are all like, “I’m running in a breast-cancer awareness fundraiser!”

And I’m all like, “Ohhh, huh. Nice.”
And they’re up and in my face with a “Why aren’t you enthusiastic?”
And I’m all, “Um, um,”
“Do you hate breasts? Omg, you hate breasts, don’t you.”
“NO TRUST ME I LOVE BREASTS JUST NOT PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S MANIPULATION OF ALL THINGS FEMININE TO SUPPORT THEIR EVIL AGENDA PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE AND DON’T TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT ME.”

So. Y’all have a nice day now. Shoot them an email if you get a chance.

Planned Parenthood’s “evil agenda”, in case you were wondering, is:

Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence. We believe that respect and value for diversity in all aspects of our organization are essential to our well-being. We believe that reproductive self-determination must be voluntary and preserve the individual’s right to privacy. We further believe that such self-determination will contribute to an enhancement of the quality of life and strong family relationships.

Thus mission statement may be a tad wordy, but what Bad Catholic Blogger means by evil is that Planned Parenthood believe (and act on their belief) that if a woman is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, she should get to have a safe, legal abortion.

And that’s what I believe too. I recently had a long conversation with a pro-lifer about that (which got a bit confusing – it turned out the pro-lifer was using a kind of script, and I somehow doubt that I was giving the right responses for the script to work) but my view in summary is: Whatever your view of the rights and wrongs of any individual abortion, there are so many evils caused by the clear evil of forcing a woman through pregnancy against her will, that the remote and impractical “good” that an uninformed idealist might think would result from banning legal abortion is not worth using as a justification. Or as Fred Clark at Slacktivist says, even shorter: Love should never point us away from this world.

The NHS is love in this world. If you are Christian, the NHS is one direct and national answer to question of who is sheep and who is goat: “I was sick and you looked after me.” This is something that Fred Clark is trying to communicate, I think, to his fellow Christians at Patheos (Bad Catholic is another Patheos blogger) when he says:

if you say that you dislike or disapprove of or oppose Planned Parenthood because you are “pro-life,” you are communicating one thing very clearly. You are telling all who can hear you that what is most important to you, what you regard as most morally consequential, is your self-image. You are telling us that you value your own esteem of yourself on your own terms far more than you value the lives of poor women and children.

That is what I hear you saying. That is what poor women and children hear you saying. And that is what everyone who knows or cares about any woman or child who is poor will hear you saying. Because that is what you are saying and, really, that is all you are saying.

We have healthcare charities in the UK that do huge amounts of good work with specialised experience and skills. But because of the NHS, they do not have to provide core services. But there are women in the US who will die because they could not be screened for breast cancer because the resources just weren’t there for them. Komen for the Cure was a charity providing, via Planned Parenthood, some of the essential, life-saving preventive healthcare that is not profitable for a health insurance company.

There are “pro-life” charities and campaigning groups in the UK that work to oppose abortions in principle. I disagree with them. I don’t have a problem with their promoting their view that all abortion is wrong: I have a problem with the Tories bringing these essentially anti-democratic views into the centre of government, especially as it seems clear that this is funded by some of the same sources that fund the tornado in the US.

This is the kind of storm that the Tories will leave our country open to if they succeed in shutting down the NHS.

After the Revolution, we will not execute Cameron, Clegg, Lansley for the people that their changes to the health system will have murdered. We will however sentence them and health company executives to a long healthy life scrubbing ward floors and bedpans. #aftertherevolution -Roz Kaveney (1, 2)

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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, Poverty, Women

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