The NHS reforms are only one element in a storm of white papers and policy changes. With all these white papers whizzing through the ConDem government, it’s no wonder many of us don’t know where to start. Especially since these papers are decorated with popular buzzwords ‘empowerment’, ‘participation’, ‘patient autonomy’ and ‘fairness’. Such dressing up of policies makes deciphering the true meaning of the reforms difficult enough, let alone deciding how to mitigate them. It is hard to believe that this vague language and bombardment of reforms is not a deliberate tactic by the government to divide the efforts and focus of lobbyists and civil society. It is therefore important to keep the key elements of the NHS reforms at the forefront of our minds and prevent ourselves from getting bogged down with ‘White paper fatigue’.
There are several key elements of the NHS reforms:
- GP consortia
- Market-driven NHS and stealth privatisation
- Local accountability
- Public Health Reforms
Of course, these points are only significant when considering what the shake up of the NHS means for patients, our society.
So how do these changes translate on a ground level and what are the side effects for patients?
A structure that poses to turn GPs from patients’ advocates and primary healthcare providers into financial commissioners and managers, who are supposed to magically summon new skills that reposition them as budgets balancers.
Market-driven NHS and Stealth Privatisation
Such an approach and open doors to any willing provider, is slowly transforming the NHS into a business. This has the potential to create a situation where the cheapest provider wins instead of the best provider promoting a ‘scrimp and save‘ approach to patient care.
This translates to government washing their hands of responsibility of the NHS and the subsequent developments. As such local authorities are likely to vary considerably in their service provision expanding the postcode lottery rather than decreasing it.
Public Health Reforms
Instead of the ConDem government taking a strong regulatory lead they promote voluntary and corporate involvement in health policy. Once again shirking responsibility and leaving patients susceptible to corporate promotion of profits over health.
In short these reforms neglect and dilute patient care, through the systematic fragmentation of the NHS, decrease in government responsibility and increase in privatisation.
Protect ourselves from ‘White Paper Fatigue’, dodge the buzzwords and ConDem jargon, keep focused and challenge the reforms that threaten to dismantle the NHS.