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Priced out of Wellness - NHS England

November 21, 2019

As the election campaign for GE19 gears up, and focus inevitably shifts back to healthcare and the provision of services, it's worth highlighting one of the greatest threats to healthcare in Scotland, and the disastrous impact that the early creeping privatisation of care in England and Wales is having. 


In 2012, the Health and Social Care Act was implemented and paved the way for increased private sector involvement in NHS England. A joint venture by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the Act significantly raised the bar in terms of the amount of private work that NHS trusts could undertake. 


Over the intervening years we've seen the impact of rationing of healthcare - patients only being offered a single-sided joint replacements, or cataract ops - and the rise of a two-tier medical system in England, which the picture above highlights - NHS patients being offered private care in NHS hospitals.


Whilst it is true that it means less money going to external companies, it should never be the case that proper funding for the healthcare system is replaced by top-up funds from patients having to pay privately. Equally, the removal of quality-of-life based treatments (for non-critical, non-life-threatening disease) is an easy way to save money at the expense of wellbeing patients - a very sinister approach to what should be holistic medicine. In many parts of England patients have now been effectively priced out of wellness.  


Scotland has avoided much of this through the separate nature of our healthcare system, but as NHS England continues to be starved of adequate funds, the knock on Barnett-consequential is that funding in Scotland will also drop. With the increasing threat of a crash-out Brexit and a quick and ill-thought through trade deal with the US opening up internal healthcare markets to a consumerist based profiteering American system, the results of this coming election are likely to have long term ramifications for the delivery of healthcare both within Scotland and throughout the UK. 


The promise of political protection from privatisation is an important one, and we welcome the approach of the SNP in planning to introduce primary legislation to stop privatisation of healthcare. 


In order to be truly radical, the approach of government need an overhaul. Health and Wellbeing need to take centre-stage in policy making to ensure that all the levers of ill-health and wellbeing are addressed, and that the promotion and preservation of good health (as a fundamental resource of our nation) are as important, if not more so, than simply the management of disease. 


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