I suppose that I have been very fortunate to spend my life in a job where I knew who I was meant to be looking after. As a doctor I am bound by the General Medical Council’s good practice guidelines which make it clear that as a doctor “you must make the patient your first concern”. So I have known, quite clearly and unambiguously that my job is to look after my patients. And, it is not just doctors. I have known physiotherapists, and nurses, medical receptionists and telephonists who have all shared the same public service ethos. Working in the NHS was like that. We were there to serve the patients.
Perhaps that is why people tend to trust their doctors. I was asked my advice on all sorts of things, from what sort of car to buy or whether to invest in a private pension. I may or may not have had any useful advice, but the patients knew that I was not going to get a back-hander from the car manufacturer or a commission from the pension company.
Politicians, it seems are different. And the stink of corruption is spreading from politics through the Department of Health and into the whole management of the NHS. There is a real risk that faith in the NHS itself will be destroyed by the changes that Andrew Lansley and David Cameron are trying to force on a reluctant public in the face of almost universal opposition from healthcare professions.
I have written before about the tendency of Labour Secretaries of State for Health to take lucrative consultancies with private healthcare companies and consultancies. I have also commented on the fact that Tony Blair’s special adviser on the NHS is now European president of United Health. United Health is just one of several US companies who have be found guilty of defrauding the US tax-payer and patients, and who are taking on work for the NHS in Britain.
The tentacles of private companies and the way that they have taken profits out of the NHS is well documented by Professor Allyson Pollock in her book NHS PLC. Those private organisations always take much needed money out of the NHS and often leave on the brink of bankruptcy the very NHS facilities they were meant to be serving.
How corrupt are the people telling us how to organise the NHS?
Read this blog and it will turn your stomach. MPs and Peers who benefited financially from of Healthcare related businesses include:
Andrew Lansley MP and his wife Sally Low, Nick de Bois MP, who defended Lansley’s NHS reforms in a Radio 5 live programme that I was taking part in, Patricia Hewitt MP, Alan Milburn MP, David Heathcoat-Amory MP, Mark Simmonds MP, Stephen O’Brien MP, Rob Wilson MP, Simon Burns MP, Lord Carter and Lord McColl.
The blog reports donations to the Conservative Party centrally of over £600,000 from healthcare related businesses. One of the donors was rewarded by David Cameron with a peerage. So at least two peers head up companies that will be major beneficiaries of the Cameron and Lansley plan to give away large chunks of the NHS to private companies.
The corruption has spread to the civil service.
Two recent revelations have shown that the ‘snouts in the trough’ mentality is not confined to MPs and Peers.
Andrew Lansley had to apologise when it emerged that 25 senior staff in the Department of Health were dodging their tax and NI obligations by having their salaries paid through private companies.
And the Mail on Sunday discovered that the management consultancy McKinsey were wining and dining senior Department of Health staff, while at the same time helping to draw up the legislation that will bring great benefits to their own company and others in the field.
How corrupt would you like the NHS to become?
With this background, it can surely be no surprise that Lansley’s so-called NHS reforms pave the way for £millions to pass from the NHS to private companies. Despite government attempts to assure us that conflict of interest will be prevented, it will be impossible to ensure that all the contracts taken up by every Commissioning Group will avoid all those companies that have played a part in setting up the whole shady deal. There are companies, and there will be individuals who have interests both in ‘helping’ the commissioning process and in providing healthcare or selling services to healthcare providers. And with all these contracts sucking the life-blood out of the NHS, GPs will come under more and more pressure to delay, defer and deny patients the treatment that they need in order to pay for the financial deficits.
If you would like this corruption to become a regular part of the way the NHS works you have only to sit on your hands while the Health Bill becomes law.