THE SPECTRE of health insurance to ‘top-up’ the NHS has raised its ugly head. It is part of the arsenal of weapons turned on the NHS in all-out war launched by this Tory government. War on the junior doctors, war on student nurses and war on A&Es, maternity and children’s departments.
Meanwhile the Tories, with great zeal have prosecuted a real drive to bring Virgin Care, Serco and other private companies into the NHS. We now have Christopher Smallwood, former chair of St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) arguing that the only way the NHS is going to survive is if a health insurance policy is introduced.
He writes: ‘The NHS will not be adequately financed as long as it relies exclusively on tax revenues.’ If this scheme was introduced, Smallwood writes, the government would then negotiate with insurance companies the premiums chargeable to provide cover for a ‘menu of charges’ on different treatments and procedures. Adding for good measure: ‘Without such a scheme, poorer people may lose access to these treatments.’
So the Tory plan has become crystal clear: starve the NHS of funds, drive doctors, nurses and NHS staff out of the NHS, shut down A&Es, put immense pressure on the ones that are left and drive up the waiting times for surgery.
Everyone can see what is coming … present the patient with a ‘choice’: ‘We can book you in for surgery on your cancer in six months time or you can take out health insurance and we can see you next week.’
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of BMA Council, says that private ‘top up’ insurance schemes are common in the United States. He warns it means those with the ability to pay can receive high standard care, whereas those who cannot afford extra payments receive care of a lower quality.
Wrigley states: ‘We should be working hard to ensure that everyone has equal access to all the care they need. This is why the model of the NHS from 1948 onwards has been the envy of the world.’
The first free health service was built in Russia after the Russian socialist revolution of 1917 and it was an inspiration to the working class in Britain who fought for the establishment of the NHS in 1948.
The NHS and the welfare state including council housing and free education were won from 1945 onwards through social reform forced through by millions of soldiers who came back from the war determined to banish the spectre of the hungry 30s for ever.
These reforms can now only be defended through a socialist revolution. The entire working class depends on the NHS and the entire working class must now be mobilised to defend it. There is an intensifying staff crisis in the NHS with the doctors, nurses and NHS staff doing the job of two or three people, working 14-hour shifts.
What is Hunt and May’s answer to this crisis? It is to turn their fire on NHS workers who were born overseas! Donna Kinnair, Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice at the RCN, said: ‘Nurses trained in other countries have contributed to the NHS since its inception. The health service would not cope without their contribution.’
However, it is not only junior doctors and doctors and nurses born overseas that this government is attacking. Hunt and May have turned their fire against patients too! St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south west London, is to launch a pilot scheme where pregnant women who do not provide their photo ID, passport or current proof of their right to remain in the UK will not be booked in for treatment.
The right to free health care is a basic human right. The working class will not be dragged back to pre-1948 days where those who could afford hospital treatment lived and those who could not were left to die. This is why a revolutionary leadership must be built to lead the working class in a general strike to smash the Tories and take the power to drive society forward to socialism.
These are the issues that will be discussed at the News Line Anniversary rally on November 12. Make sure that you and your friends attend!