Today, we give a brief round-up on the week’s media coverage of the NHS reforms. Fear the changes in the NHS are going too fast for you to follow? Then read on for a summary of political and other developments.
We’ve heard from many of you that you’re struggling with the onslaught of information on the reforms coming from the major media outlets, and this is our response. A weekly round-up of all the stories, breaking news and analysis from medical journals and newspapers. Here we go then…
Perhaps the most significant news this week was of 50,000 jobs in the NHS to go as a result of NHS hospital trust budget cuts. Using Freedom of Information responses, a union-funded website False Economy was able to glean current plans from NHS trusts that included not only administrative workers but doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals. The Guardian reported a full breakdown of the job losses, sparking criticism to the government who previously promised to ringfence frontline services from budget cuts. In no way does it seem ‘middle management’ are the only losses for the health service, these cuts are as frontline as you can get. Doesn’t quite sound like the promise Cameron gave before the elections last year now does it?
Alarmingly, reforms to increase private involvement in the NHS seem not an isolated example but a small part of an overarching agenda the government plans to pursue for all public services. In a letter to the Telegraph, Cameron announced this week a forthcoming White Paper to decentralise all public services, releasing the “grip of state control” over people’s lives. There was little in the way of detail of how this would work, but it was certain that private companies could play a far greater role than they do at present.
Polly Tynebee later wrote alarmingly of the erosion of accountability and democratic participation in the oversight of public services, pointing to Private Finance Initiatives as an example. If you want to read more about the cost and problems with PFIs, we’d recommend you check out Allyson Pollock and colleagues roundup in the BMJ a couple of weeks’ ago.
Also this week came a patient’s reflections on the worth of the NHS and her hesitancies for its fragmentation. Suzanne Moore describes the fallacies of choice, especially the way in which this has been used as a façade for competition, and questions Andrew Lansley’s arrogant insistence on the need for his reforms, considering concerns issued by the Royal College of Surgeons, BMA, Royal College of Nursing, physiotherapists, unions, and major health charities about the scale and speed of the reforms.
Ominously, the extent of maneourving behind the Government’s Health Bill became more clear when Dr Sarah Wallston, Conservative MP for Totnes describes how party chiefs banned her from scrutinising the NHS reforms on a parliamentary committee. Tory whips were it seems anxious that her amendments would hold up the bill, which they want passed through parliament at the earliest point possible.
To raise further alarm, it became clear that the government plans to continue apace with its ‘pilot schemes’ for GP commissioning – otherwise known as ‘Pathfinders’ – a group of schemes to road test GP commissioning of NHS services, the only catch being that the ‘pilot’ now encompasses a large portion of the entire patient population of England. Despite these recent criticisms, Pulse Magazine revealed a third wave of pathfinder consortia to become active in a matter of weeks. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA General Practitioner Committee negotiator branded these pilots a ‘misnomer’, describing the pressures on GPs to participate in the consortia, given the “implosion” of primary care trusts and exodus of managerial staff.
If you’ve got a story you’ve got your hands on, or you think we’ve missed anything out of this week’s round-up, why not get in touch to suggest a piece or write something yourself. We’re always eager to hear from you, particularly if you’re a member of staff in the NHS, or have a personal story you’d like to share. Otherwise, tune in next Sunday for a breakdown of the next week’s updates on the NHS reforms.
Big Society NHS, over and out.