Margaret Thatcher once famously declared that the NHS is safe in Tory hands. Well we have seen what has happened through successive Tory governments.
Last month chancellor Philip Hammond claimed to be giving the health service an extra £10bn, but told managers to save £22bn, which means a net cut of £12bn.
At the same time local care budgets are being slashed by £3.5bn. That will mean more hospital bed-blocking as elderly and frail patients remain on the wards because they can’t be sent back to an unsafe home.
It will also mean more pressure on accident and emergency services, which are already in meltdown.
A&E services in Rake Lane, Hexham and Wansbeck are closing between midnight and 8am, with patients sent to the new unit at Cramlington.
You can be sure that my colleague Ian Lavery and I will be watching this very closely, and if services deteriorate further, we will raise it in the House of Commons.
Ever since Maggie’s declaration, I believe we have witnessed creeping privatisation of the NHS by the back door. The buzzword in the corridors of power is ‘transformation of services’. To me, that’s just another phrase for privatisation.
The big question now is, are we heading for a private health service in same mould as the USA?
A lot of care in the NHS has already been handed to private companies. A report by the Centre for Health and Public Interest estimated that the private sector scoops up more that £20bn in NHS contracts, a fifth of the entire health budget. Just recently Virgin Care won £700m in a contract to run 200 NHS and social care services.
Health and welfare must come before profit. The NHS is part of our lives from the moment we are born until the time we die and often numerous times in between.
I wonder how long it will be before we all have to get health insurance American-style.