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The Guardian’s take on NHS privatization: The bad treatment | Editorial

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NOTHS waiting lists are out of control. Around 7.5 million people are queuing for hospital treatment in the UK, including around 6 million in England, where it is the highest number since records began in 2007. In Wales, more one-fifth of the population is waiting for treatment. There are differences in the policies adopted by decentralized administrations to reduce arrears. In England, it is clear that a greater role for the private sector is the government’s plan.

Details of the recovery plan promised by ministers are still being finalized, with NHS bosses resisting what they see as unrealistic targets. Finding a way to increase surgical capacity, so that more operations can take place faster, is the priority. The impact of delays is both social and economic: people waiting for cataracts do not see properly; people who need joint replacements may have difficulty walking. But there are worrying signs that any new contract will tip the overall balance of the system further in favor of for-profit providers, and away from the NHS.

The unprecedented pressure the NHS is under should get the government to invest in it, not force it to rely on business to do its job. Yet, as with education, where the government has opted to buy a pandemic catch-up tuition package from external partners rather than fund schools themselves, ministers are opting to meet the additional health needs of people through the private sector. Earlier this month, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, warned Health Secretary Sajid Javid that she does not believe the latest three-month deal with private hospitals represents value for the UK. public money. She was rejected, with Mr Javid ordering her to accept it despite his warning that the NHS could end up paying for care not provided.

The role of the private sector in carrying out operations on behalf of NHS England is well established. Labor health spokesman Wes Streeting said he would use private companies to reduce waiting lists. Outsourcing also occurs in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, although to a lesser extent. But by forcing NHS England to continue to rely on private sector support, while refusing to engage in long-term workforce planning, as the former health secretary advocates Jeremy Hunt, among others, the government is deliberately expanding the role of the market.

New research from the Center for Health and the Public Interest reveals that hundreds of NHS consultants have become shareholders in private companies. MPs and regulators should consider the financial incentives and potential for conflicts of interest that such arrangements can create, and whether there is a risk of harm to NHS patients.

The number of staff absences due to illness has thankfully fallen sharply from a peak of 46,000 earlier this month. But if the government sticks to plans to lay off all those still unvaccinated, with letters due next month, the workforce situation at some trusts is set to worsen. Ministers are expected to consider extending the deadline, to give trusts another opportunity to tackle vaccine hesitancy within the workforce.

Additional NHS funding from higher National Insurance should help ease the pressures. But the problems in some regions are chronic, long before the pandemic, and a worsening workforce crisis in the social care sector is already having repercussions. Of course, ministers continue to declare their support for the NHS, which they know is highly valued by a public that clearly sees how worse people fare in for-profit healthcare systems like in the states -United. But their actions to strengthen the role of private providers, while refusing to take the steps that would help secure the long-term future of the NHS, speak louder than their words – or even their applause.

The Guardian’s take on NHS privatization: The bad treatment | Editorial

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