NPC calls for joint campaign to stop new ICS Boards allowing private sector to influence NHS contracts
The National Pensioners’ Convention is calling on health campaigners to unite to stop further wholesale privatisation and wanton undermining of the NHS.
At a webinar on the implications of the new Health & Care Act yesterday (Thursday, 16th June), members of the NPC - the UK’s largest campaign group for older people - were shocked to hear speakers describe how badly the legislation will impact upon already struggling local services.
Spokesmen from Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and Unite the Union outlined how the restructing of the management of the health service – particularly the 42 new Integrated Care Systems Boards (ICSBs) across England – will weaken accountability of health service provision to local communities, while opening the door to more private health companies to buy into the NHS.
Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary called for an urgent national and local initiative to fight for more local representation on the ICSB’s. Jan said: “In the coming weeks we will work with organisations such as KONP and Unite the Union – which has 100,000 health sector members - to build a new campaign to protect our much valued health services.
“The NHS is an excellent service which is worth fighting for – but it has been undermined through years of underfunding, neglect and ill-considered attempts at restructuring - while one or two sections of the media attempt to write it off as a lost cause.
“It is hard to explain how much we will all – young and old – miss the NHS when it is gone. If you want to see what the alternative is, just look to the US where major health care providers, run by private equity businesses over-charge and over-medicate those who can afford private healthcare in pursuit of a profit – while the poor literally die from the lack of treatment for the simplest of conditions. We must stop that happening here.”
The webinar heard presentations from Dr Tony O’Sullivan from campaigners Keep Our NHS Public, and Simon Cox, Senior Adviser to Sharon Graham the General Secretary of Unite the Union which has 100,000 health care members.
In his speech, Dr O’Sullivan referenced a BBC Panorama documentary* this week on Operose, a subsidiary of the American health care giant Centene, that now owns more GP practices than any other in England and serves 600,000 NHS patients. He said the documentary exposed the failings of one of Operose’s privately owned surgeries, where inexperienced Physician’s Associates often stand-in for GPs, and where patients struggled to get any GP appointment.
Simon Cox, Senior Adviser at Unite the Union said their health sector members were hugely concerned at the state of the NHS, with stressed staff coping with huge demand for low pay – leading to many workers leaving the NHS – which has led to 100,000 vacancies.
Both speakers supported the call for a joint campaign to ensure England’s new Integrated Care System Boards properly scrutinised the running and provision of health services, and that private companies should not be able to sit on the Boards.
*A FULL REPORT ON THE WEBINAR WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY.
Introduced by the new NHS Health & Care Act, the ICSBs coming into effect from 1st July should monitor the standard and quality of the health services being delivered locally, and hold the private health providers accountable.
It also gives the Secretary of State more powers to direct NHS England, and intervene on decisions over changes to local services.
But the National Pensioners’ Convention fears the new Boards may not adequately do so, and that the Act could open the door to more privatisation of services. The NPC’s online summit discussed how local communities can work together to influence and challenge the new ICSBs to protect already struggling NHS and care service.
QUOTES ON NEW HEALTH & CARE ACT (in run up to the event):
Jan Shortt, General Secretary, NPC, said: “Far from improving our NHS, this new legislation will not tackle the immediate pressures facing the health and care system, or replace those services already lost, or shorten waiting lists. It will further fragment services, reduce key funding to create a postcode lottery for services, while downgrading the medical qualifications and terms and conditions of key staff. It opens the door for private companies to win contracts with ICSBs, giving them influence over the decisions on what care is provided, by whom and for whom.”
Sharon Graham, General Secretary, Unite the Union, added: “The Health and Care Act is part of an ongoing assault on the NHS that will bring in more privatisation by the back door. It will also lay the path for lower standards of care and further undermine the pay and conditions of NHS staff.”
Dr Tony O’Sullivan, Co-Chair, Keep Our NHS Public, said: “The Health and Care Act is a travesty - a bad piece of legislation, pushed through during the pandemic, that fragments and undermines the NHS and clearly shows the Government cares for private interests not public health. It does nothing for the workforce crisis in health and care, it facilitates private interests in further parasitising the NHS. It allows hospital patients to be sent home without a care plan and minimises the local authority scrutiny of health plans so important for safe decisions.”
A full report on the webinar will be published shortly – and a video or the entire webinar will be accessible to view via our website: www.npcuk.org
Download the press release