RISK assessments about the impact of Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley’s health and social care bill on the NHS throw light on the devastation of the health service that will result from its implementation.
These assessments, drawn up by four English NHS regions (London, the North, the South and Midlands and the East) are produced every three months in an attempt to identify existing and potential crises in the system.
What they reveal is patient care will inevitably suffer, including the risk of ‘preventable harm to children’ through of the loss of key staff and the threat to children’s services and maternity provision as a result of the Bill.
In addition, these reports found that in all probability the Bill will not result in any improvement in the management of the NHS and will not achieve the savings that Lansley and the government are demanding.
The report for the North of England found a very high risk of achieving ‘productivity gains at the expense of quality’, with quality defined as ‘safety, clinical effectiveness and patient experience’.
At the same time, it warns of high risks to patient care resulting from ‘organisational and system instability’ resulting in uncertainty and insecurity amongst staff.
In the Midlands and east, they warn that targets to implement spending cuts will lead to a worsening of care and safety of patients and an inability to meet targets for limiting the time for patients waiting for treatment to below eighteen weeks.
In London, the report focused on the staff being ‘distracted’ by the upheavals in management caused by the proposals, the loss of ‘key talent’ and expertise, and the failure of the changes to produce any savings through cost cutting as well as the threat to children’s health and maternity services.
These four risk assessments are believed to be relatively mild in comparison with a national risk register which was drawn up last year by civil servants working for Lansley himself at the Department of Health.
This register is so damning that Lansley is fighting tooth and nail through the courts against a freedom of information request to make it public, on the grounds that it is an ‘internal management document’ and publication ‘would risk seriously damaging the quality of advice given to ministers and any subsequent decision-making’.
What they really mean is that publication would seriously risk bringing down the government, as it reveals that all Lansley’s and Cameron’s talk about handing power to doctors and nurses, reducing bureaucracy and giving patients more choice is nothing but a smokescreen to hide their real intention of destroying the NHS as a free health service at the point of delivery.
Predictably, the Labour leadership have jumped on these reports to call for the coalition government to abandon the Bill.
Burnham’s position is that the Bill is not needed and that the privatisation of the NHS was being achieved by Labour, and that the Tories should follow Labour’s lead.
Cameron, however, will not listen to Burnham. What drives the coalition on is the economic crisis, a crisis which is demanding that the NHS be thrown to the wolves of private health care and the financial services vultures now, so that they can save their skins by making huge profits swallowing the NHS budget.
For all these reasons, all the exhortations to Cameron to drop the Bill are falling on deaf ears.
The only way to defend the NHS today is by kicking out this coalition government through a general strike and going forward to a workers government committed to the defence of all the gains of the welfare state and to the expropriation of the banks and all those private companies intent on destroying it.