I am very concerned about the future of the NHS. As a GP, I was rightly expected to practice evidence-based medicine. Yet the Government is about to embark upon the most radical overhaul of the NHS since its inception with no evidence to support it, no pilot studies to test it, and overwhelming opposition from all the professional bodies working within the NHS, none of whom were properly consulted beforehand. None of the proposed changes appeared in the Conservative’s pre-election manifesto. What is planned is the introduction of commissioning consortia and the right of “any willing provider” (i.e. profit-led private companies) to bid for any and all NHS work. Moreover the competition is to be based on price. It means that GP’s wishing to keep using well-trusted local hospitals and consultants will find themselves open to challenge in court if they don’t tender everything out and pick the cheapest bidder. To quote the words of David Hands, Professor in Health Policy and Management, “The bill will break up the NHS as “any willing provider” will be able to take over services. These will be run by unaccountable profit-making companies. Worse still, the bill gives the health sector the task of making sure the NHS abides by EU competition law, which will make it very difficult for services to return in-house once they have been put out to tender. It is effectively a one-way ticket to NHS privatisation.”
To those like Mr Hartill, who put their trust in competition (Will there be competition? letters February 24), I say that anecdotal evidence alone simply will not do. Scientific analysis of international evidence demonstrates that markets in health care increase costs, reduce quality, distort access, increase inequalities and diminish choice.
In response to widespread concern there will be an open meeting to discuss the NHS re-organisation on Monday, March 7, at 7.30pm, in the Hope and Anchor, Wirksworth, to which everyone is invited, to hear how the changes would affect us locally, and to give local people a chance to express their views.
Dr Trevor Hyde