The government has introduced a new Health and Care Bill into parliament as Covid-19 cases soar.
Rather than using the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to draw back from former health secretary Matt Hancock’s privatisations and dodgy procurements, Boris Johnson has jumped in headfirst.
He overruled his new health secretary Sajid Javid, who wanted to delay.
The bill will concentrate many new powers into the hands of the health secretary.
The government claims the bill’s main purpose is to introduce integrated care. But behind the talk of bringing hospitals, GP practices and social care closer together lies a power grab by the government and an agenda of privatisation.
The bill breaks up the NHS into 42 separate integrated care systems (ICSs). Each ICS will have its own tight budget which will force local cuts.
The damage from the pandemic means the NHS requires more money not less.
The Bill is promoted as an end to privatisation, as compulsory tendering for healthcare services is no longer always required. But this claim is a smokescreen.
It allows private companies to take over large chunks of the ICSs, even sitting on their boards. These companies have never been allowed on NHS boards before.
Already about 200 firms—many from the US—are accredited to provide support to ICSs.
These include Operose who were recently allowed to take over dozens of GP surgeries and community services. There is also Optum which is owned by the largest US health insurance firm, UnitedHealth.
The present NHS boss, Simon Stevens, used to work for a sister company UnitedHealthcare.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw contracts being handed out without any scrutiny.
Exempting the NHS from the Public Contract Regulations 2015 will make this worse.
For patients, there will be fewer face to face consultations and far less chance of seeing the same health worker. More patients will be seen by staff who are guided by a computer. Services will get cut as ICSs are forced to stay within budget.
This is being promoted as a move to “selfcare”.
The bill will allow for our health data to be sold off to big pharma and insurance companies, with no proper safeguards in place.
The power grab by the secretary of state will mean democratically elected councillors will be less able to object to service changes they see as a risk.
Dangerous reconfigurations can now be forced through against local opposition by the government.
The truth is that the NHS needs integrated care.
But to provide this requires home social care and care in nursing homes to become free as part of a publicly funded health and social care service.
This bill pushes us into a healthcare system for profit, not people. Health workers and campaigners need to come together to stop this bill from becoming law.
The proposed Health and Care Bill which hands more power to the health secretary Sajid Javid is a major assault on health workers.
Firstly the bill is a major threat to pay. Integrated care systems (ICSs) will be allowed to set their own pay rates and their tight budgets will make pay an easy target for them.
ICSs are likely to insist on greater employee flexibility with hospital staff being forced to work in the community and vice versa.
This will threaten to undermine teamwork, and trade union organisation.
There will also be a race to the bottom on skill mix.
Nursing and other jobs will be advertised to people without the right qualifications.
GMB national officer, Rachel Harrison said, “Ministers need to focus on protecting our NHS workers—who are exhausted—not on more restructures and reorganisation which will cause chaos and confusion at the worst possible time.
“They (the government) should support our campaign for a 15 percent pay rise for NHS staff.”
Public Health England (PHE) has been accused of giving cancer patients misleading Covid-19 vaccine advice regarding the level of protection they will gain.
A statement from PHE claimed a double vaccination was “highly effective in clinical risk groups”.
Blood Cancer UK’s chief executive, Gemma Peters, said she was “deeply disturbed” by the statement.
She said its “confident, definitive assertions” about the level of protection given to Britain’s 230,000 blood cancer patients could not yet be supported by the “wider body of evidence on vaccine efficacy in the immunocompromised”.
Following the disproportionate effects of previous Covid-19 waves, senior doctors are raising calls for efforts to be doubled to vaccinate black and Asian people.
As the government forces a “return to normal” they rely on the vaccination roll out. But vaccination of black people is at least 20 percent lower than white groups.
As Covid-19 infections rise, the NHS faces a staff shortage.
So the government is discussing plans that would make NHS workers exempt from isolating if notified by the NHS Covid-19 app.
The requirement to isolate for fully vaccinated people is planned to end on 16 August.
The real way to solve a staffing crisis is to offer free training and make the roles more attractive by offering better pay and conditions.
The economic fallout from the pandemic and rising food prices have fuelled a sharp increase in the number of people going hungry, according to the United Nations.
The number globally who did not have access to adequate nutrition last year rose by 320 million to 2.4 billion—nearly a third of the world’s population.
The increase is equivalent to that of the previous five years combined.
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Next court date 16 November