- The NHS will not be National.
- It will not be comprehensive.
- Local consortia will be able to decide what services to provide free of charge
- what services to provide but charge for
- and what services will not be prvided at all.
That sounds to me like the end of the NHS, certainly the NHS as we know it.
Writing in the British Medical Journal this week Prof. Allyson Pollock reveals some devastating detail hidden away in the Health Bill currently before Parliament.
Since 1948 the Health Secretary has been required to provide comprehensive healthcare throughout the country.
That requirement will be abolished.
Instead Commissioning Consortia will have the power to decide what they feel is appropriate to provide under the NHS. They will also have the power to introduce new charges for NHS treatment.
Dr Charles West local GP, health campaigner and Liberal Democrat spokesman said:
“This really will mean the end of the NHS as a national service. The Commissioning Consortia will have a woolly obligation to arrange for such healthcare as they consider appropriate, and to charge for it if they wish. But they will have a strict obligation to keep within budget. So all the pressures will be to reduce the treatment available to patients.
“What makes it worse is that the bill also allows for surpluses, if there are any, to be distributed to staff or shareholders. So there is a clear incentive to reduce treatment, or to deny patients the treatment they need and pocket the cash.
“To make the whole thing more complicated GP practice boundaries will disappear and different GPs may be in different Consortia. It is therefore quite possible for one patient to be subject to the rules and charges imposed by one Consortium and another patient living not far away to be covered by a different Consortium. It is not clear what obligation, if any, there will be for a Consortium to arrange treatment for a patient who is registered with a different Consortium. I can foresee the possibility for endless arguments about who is going to pay. We could well finish up in the situation that they have in the USA where the ambulance wants to see your membership card before agreeing to take you to hospital, or indeed before deciding which hospital you are allowed to go to.
“Since winning our debate at the National Conference in Sheffield Liberal Democrat health experts have been working hard to negotiate amendments to the Health Bill, but when we discover this sort of bombshell hidden away in the detail I seriously doubt if we can save the NHS by amending the Bill. I suspect that we need to persuade our MPs to throw it out completely.”