By Yuri Prasad
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Suffering in pain for NHS treatment? The Tories will give you an app

The app will also be a major driver of NHS privatisation.
Issue 2795
Sajid Javid, NHS health secretary, speaks to a room of physicians on health treatment reform

Javid laid out his attacks on NHS treatment to the Royal College of Physicians

Get ready for more NHS cuts. That’s the shocking message from Tory health secretary Sajid Javid as he announced yet more “reforms” to the health service.

In a speech to surgeons this week, he implied that health funding would not increase in line with historic average rises because that would be “unsustainable”. “It’s clear we were always going to come to a crossroads—a point where we must choose between endlessly putting in more and more money, or reforming how we do healthcare,” Javid said.

Instead of more cash, there will be an NHS app. It’s tempting to laugh at this latest outbreak of Tory stupidity. There are millions of people on waiting lists for care and operations, and every day thousands more people need medical help, what is an app going to do for them?

But the NHS app is actually a serious attempt to cut waiting times by limiting access to healthcare. Instead of having a right to see your local GP, doctor, or trained health professional, people in need will increasingly be forced to rely on a computer algorithm.

It will ask you a series of multiple-choice questions, and depending on your answers the app will then decide whether you are in need of treatment. If you are unhappy with the software’s decision, there will be very few ways in which you can talk to a human health worker about it. And the app will also be a major driver of NHS privatisation.

Everyone who has been waiting for treatment for more than 18 months will be asked if they want to “change provider”. That will likely include the option of travelling to other hospitals, including those that are run by private healthcare leeches.

This “personalisation” agenda talks endlessly about putting the patient in control. But if you want to stay within the NHS you will increasingly find the app says no. The choice for you will be to either carry on waiting—perhaps for years—or, be transferred to a greedy firm that sucks its profits from the NHS budget. 

Personalisation will also see the introduction of budgets for individual patients. That’s supposed to allow people to make decisions about their care and prioritise their needs. But the choices come in the context of massive cuts. Need both physiotherapy and occupational therapy to manage your illness? Well, if you’ve exceeded your budget then you can’t have both. So, as always with Tory health policy, major attacks are hidden beneath talk of reform and putting the patient first.

The tragedy of British politics today is that Labour’s shadow health secretary will be looking at Javid’s hideous plans, and saying to himself, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”

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