NHS news: Confirmation that changes are progressing before the legislation is passed, that the listening exercise is a con, that there are currently substantial cuts to NHS services and that the cuts are increasing demand for private healthcare – which is the intention.
A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
Department of Health writes to GPs telling them to press on with reforms, despite the government’s listening exercise.
The Evening Standard has obtained a letter to GPs from Dame Barbara Hakin, the Department of Health’s national managing director of commissioning development, urging them to keep up the “momentum” around reform.
Everyone within the Department of Health is very aware of the support shown by the GP community to date and we have been struck by the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated in pathfinders across the country. Therefore, although the Government has taken the opportunity of a natural break in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, we are very keen that the momentum we have built to date should not stop.
The letter was sent the day after the Royal College of Nurses overwhelmingly backed a vote of no confidence in the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.
The listening exercise was an unusual step taken because of profound discomfort from medical professionals and the public. As I reported last week, just 3 per cent of the public want the bill to proceed unchanged, while there have been outspoken protests from both the RCN, the British Medical Association, and a range of Liberal Democrats.
This letter certainly appears to undermine the promise from Nick Clegg and David Cameron that the aim of the listening exercise is “substantive change” to the bill.
One of the UK’s leading private hospital providers says it expects business to boom as NHS cuts bite, waiting times lengthen and those patients who can find the money decide to pay for treatment instead.
Primary care trusts, trying to balance the books before they are abolished under the coalition government’s reforms, are already significantly restricting healthcare services , according to a survey of 500 GPs carried out on behalf of Spire Healthcare, the second largest private hospital group in the country.
Although the 500 are only a fraction of the 39,000 GPs in the country, their responses are in line with other evidence that cuts are already being implemented. Most of the GPs who responded reported that they already faced offering a reduced service to patients.
More than three-quarters (77%) said they were experiencing cuts in fertility services in their area, 70% were seeing reductions in weight-loss treatments, and 40% were experiencing restrictions in ophthalmology services. Almost a third (30%) of GPs said there were restrictions on orthopaedic services.
The survey found that the cuts were not only being made in areas deemed non-urgent. More than half (54%) said waiting times had gone up for musculoskeletal work and 42% of GPs report a rise in waiting times for neurology treatment.
In addition, 29% of GPs are experiencing delays in cardiology and 28% are seeing waiting times increase in ophthalmology.
One in 10 GPs has seen waiting times increase for oncology (cancer drug treament), while 6% said they were experiencing restrictions on other types of cancer care. Almost a quarter (22%) of GPs say they are likely to refer patients to the private sector for this type of treatment. Dr Jean-Jacques de Gorter, clinical director of Spire Healthcare, said he thought the increased use of the private sector was to be expected as a result of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s measures and efficiency savings.
“I think it is an inevitable consequence,” he said. “We are already seeing waiting lists for elective admissions and diagnostics going up.”
Patients facing long waits for hip replacements, hernia repairs or bariatric surgery to restrict their eating and help weight loss are likely to turn to the private sector, De Gorter believes.
The birthplace of the NHS could be privatised, according to health managers in Greater Manchester.
Trafford General Hospital treated the first ever NHS patient when the health service was inaugurated in 1948.
Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust has now confirmed that privatisation is being considered as way of dealing with the hospital’s mounting debt.