As Ive mentioned in the past the Tories are ideologically committed to privatising the NHS, after all persist the thought of the plebs getting decent health care! Of course outright privatisation is likely to be opposed. The lib dems certainly wont support it and I suspect focus groups where theyve floated the idea likely resulted in the Troy drone who asked the public would have had need for NHS services afterwards (to remove clipboard and pen from certain orifices :)) ).
So the Tory plan has been to act more subtlety. Firstly they have cut the NHS budget in real terms (while on paper its up, when you factor in inflation, an ageing and growing population, etc. effectively its being cut). Secondly they have sought to carve away chucks of the NHS services and privatise them.
One of those services was the NHS 111 non-emergency help number. Their plan was to have private companies bid for these contracts and run these services locally on a for profit basis. However, this has largely been thwarted by the fact that the bulk of services are being run by local ambulance trusts. Furthermore the largest provider, NHS Direct, is now looking to pull out of running contracts across a third of the country.
A large chuck of the problem for NHS Direct has been that more calls are coming in to their centres than theyve been expecting and its taking longer to process them. Projections from NHS directs own accounts suggest they are loosing money on every single call they receive and are looking at a deficit of £26 million over this financial year.
And if anything we can credit NHS direct for at least putting their hand up and saying that they cannot cope. For as many reports indicate the 111 service is beset with flaws and problems. Channel 4 just broadcast a Dispatches programme that used undercover reporters and showed how many of these 111 service providers are struggling to cope, in particular those covered by the private sector. Indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that lives are being put in danger.
Inevitably, the problems highlighted here mirror exactly what has happened any time the government has privatised a public service. Chaos has reigned, service quality has nosedived and costs have soared. If this is what a privatised NHS looks like, you can count me out. And anyone even thinking of voting Tory next election, all I can say is dont plan on getting sick…ever!