While Cameron may pacify us that there will be no switch to an insurance-based model (although he wants to “turn the NHS into a fantastic business”), his new health secretary Jeremy Hunt does not agree. It was hard to imagine what could be worse than Andrew Lansley. But his replacement is exactly that—the man officially on record as saying that the NHS should be privatised.
Back in 2005, Hunt co-authored with others, including Michael Gove, Tory MEP Daniel ‘the NHS is a 60-year-old mistake’ Hanaan and Greg Clark, a book called Direct Democracy in which they called for the NHS to be dismantled. It’s touching to think that a few years ago, in freezing winter, a then unknown MP by the name of Jeremy Hunt joined constituents for a candlelit vigil outside Parliament to highlight that his local hospital—the Royal Surrey in Guildford—was threatened with closure. Even the leader of his party, an apple-cheeked, smooth-faced, young David Cameron, brow as yet unfurrowed by the ordeals of being PM, dropped by to lend his support.
One might be forgiven for thinking that this is a classic case of the corrupting effect of power. In fact, this rank hypocrisy is quite prevalent with the same MPs, who voted in favour of the Health & Social Care Act, protesting against hospital cuts and closures in their own constituencies. MPs are still spooked by the ‘Kidderminster effect’ after Dr Richard Taylor, running as an independent to reinstate the local A&E, won this seat in 2001 with a majority of 18,000 and was even re-elected in 2005.
Now if I told you that we have not even got to the most remarkable part of this story then you’d probably think I was lying. But you’d be wrong. Pretty much everything in this narrative was hatched in a series of think-tank documents from the 1980s—that something can be so faithfully executed over 25 years is a testament to Machiavellianism.
Dr Lucy Reynolds and Professor Martin McKee have charted this journey:
‘[In the late 1980s]… a conference attended by Conservative politicians, NHS senior managers and think-tank advisors set out a seven-step plan to alter the NHS… In 1988, the pro- market Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) published a series of short studies exploring this agenda… One study was published as a pamphlet entitled “Britain’s biggest enterprise” by Conservative MPs Oliver Letwin and John Redwood‘.
Here is an excerpt from ‘Britain’s biggest enterprise’:
‘Might it not, rather, be possible to work slowly from the present system towards a national insurance scheme? One could begin for example, with the establishment of the NHS as an independent trust, with increased joint ventures between the NHS and the private sector; move on next to the use of “credits” to meet standard charges set by central NHS funding administration for independently managed hospitals or districts; and only at the last stage create a national health scheme separate from the tax system’.
It is worth noting that, around this time, Letwin and Redwood headed NM Rothschild bank’s international privatisation unit and that Letwin had published a book called Privatising the World with a foreword by Redwood. (Just in case you’re in any doubt as to the intentions of this dastardly duo and the Tories more generally towards the NHS, as some media commentators seem to be.)
Oliver Letwin has a Nostradamus-like tendency (or perhaps these are simply self-fulfilling prophecies when you are pulling the strings). The Independent reported in 2004 that Letwin told a private meeting the NHS will not exist within 5 years of a Conservative government. Two weeks previously, Letwin’s plans for massive cuts to public spending were also leaked. It is worth highlighting that this was long before any hint of a financial crisis. Both reports were, of course, strenuously denied!
How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps published 31st July by Zero books –
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