Readers of BMA News over the last couple of weeks cannot fail to have noticed the BMA’s conspicuous ‘No More Games’ campaign, designed – we are told – to appeal to the UK government to stop “playing games” with the NHS.
With all due respect to the leadership of our trade union, what UK governments – regardless of party political stripe – have done and continue to do to the NHS since 1979 is not a ‘game’, it is a pre-planned step-by-step programme to re-privatise healthcare in this country.
The first step in 1983 was to take NHS executive power away from doctors and place it instead in the hands of new business managers.
Step 2 in 1990 was to replace the old funding system of simple block budget allocation, with an artificial ‘internal market’ whereby ‘providers’ would henceforth compete for funding from ‘commissioners’.
Step 3, from 1997, was the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), whereby NHS Trusts were encouraged to ‘solve’ their funding problems by – in effect – paying for new (and often unnecessary) infrastructure projects on a credit card.
Step 4 was the introduction of ‘Foundation Hospitals’ – in effect embryonic private hospitals – from 2002: since then the government has decreed that all NHS Trusts must ultimately become Foundation Trusts, or else be subsumed into existing Foundation Trusts.
The final step was the Health and Social Care Act 2011, which in fact formally abolished the NHS as a universal free healthcare system: ‘NHS’ is now little more than the name for a pot of taxpayer money that will increasingly be directed to the government’s friends on the boards of private healthcare providers.
And so you see, the government is not ‘playing games’ here, far from it. It is no more likely to be dissuaded from privatising the NHS by appeal to reason or kindness than it was to be dissuaded from invading Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Libya. Or Yugoslavia. Or Ukraine …
Perhaps if anyone needs to be told to stop ‘playing games’ here it’s the BMA?