The NHS is dying. Is there no remedy?
Considering the underfunding to the NHS and the unprecedented cancellation of 55,000 routine appointments due to winter pressures, questions concerning the fate of the NHS are arising once more.
It is important to question what is to be gained – if it is even possible – should the NHS become even more significantly weakened than it already is. The argument for privatising the service is once again knocking on the door, given its current depleted state. That situation would, of course, benefit the corporations set to financially gain from such a deal, turning health into a financial game.
During the Conservative reign, we have seen Junior doctors inundated with new, unreasonable contracts. The British Medical Journal noted that these new contracts require them to work for longer periods of time without adequate pay. They are also missing opportunities for training due to winter pressure on the NHS.
Nurses are struggling financially, yet they are tasked daily with the pressures of dealing with overcrowded wards, inadequate staff numbers and unsociable working hours. Despite this, the Conservative government massively cuts funding to the NHS, forcing the closure of hospitals in certain regions, further adding to the stress placed upon local services. Cuts to social services have been increased by 11% with people who require social care as opposed to medical attention. As a result, the NHS’s ability to deal with people who require medical attention has been restricted due to the sheer volume of people they have to attend to.
In November 2016, Virgin care won £700 million contracts from the NHS in the region of Bath and North-East Somerset to deliver social care and other NHS services. It has now increased to £1 billion.
In 2016-17, 267 out of a total of 386 contracts were awarded to private companies. Although private companies have previously played a role within the NHS, critics claim that the increasing involvement of the private sector in the NHS could undermine its core values. That could result in a declining quality of care received by patients and even more overworked staff as the service is run more and more like a corporate business.
Despite this, after the NHS and pensions, the fifth biggest government expenditure is paying off the interest on debt, which currently procures an annual cost of around £46 billion. To sustain the NHS, therefore, more money will need to be borrowed, thus adding to the nation debt. But healthcare in the UK, should it be privatised, would negatively affect the working class who rely heavily on the services that are free.
What then happens to the population that require daily medication such as diabetics and those with various disabilities?