Plans for NHS cuts kept secret

by Daphne Liddle

NHS BOSSES are gearing up for a new round of cuts to hospital services throughout England, instructing local managers to draw up reviews of their services — but ordering the staff involved not to inform the public — according to a new report released by the Kings Fund.

This means that medical staff and patients are being kept completely in the dark whilst decisions are being made on a financial basis according to a new agenda known as “sustainability and transformation plans” (STPs).

The aim is to have all the decisions made and sewn up before the plans are open to a sham public consultation, and to render opposition and protest campaigns irrelevant before they have begun.

Meanwhile the private medical company, Virgin Care, is hoovering up NHS services from running GP practices, care homes, clinics and hospitals — making millions out of illness but paying no taxes in this country because the accounts always show they are making a loss. The parent company is based offshore in a tax haven.

The Kings Fund report did not include any specific details of planned cuts because the full details have not yet emerged. But leaks and plans published so far reveal that the NHS has commissioned 44 reviews of health services around England, which are likely to lead to the closure of yet more Accident and Emergency (A&E) services, maternity services and in one case the closure of a whole hospital.

The leaks have seem to have come from some of the managers who are not happy with the secrecy of the project. They have been told to keep everything “out of the public domain” and avoid requests for information. Managers were even told how to reject freedom of information requests.

The incomplete plans revealed so far include:

The changes will see services being more and more centralised. The King’s Fund said that such changes could improve patient care — but this has been a constant claim behind all NHS cuts since the 1980s.

If the process was taken to its logical conclusion we would end up with just one giant hospital in the middle of England and patients forced to travel further and further from their homes for treatment — when they are obviously feeling unwell and anxious.

Meanwhile Virgin Care is increasingly dominating the market for NHS services after entering the healthcare market in 2010.

Over the past five years the company has been awarded contracts worth over £1 billion, with several large contracts in community health.

Virgin Care Ltd is a small entity in Richard Branson’s Virgin empire. Virgin Care’s ultimate parent is Virgin Group Holdings, registered in the off-shore tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. The ultimate owners of Virgin Care are trusts registered in the British Virgin Islands where no tax is paid, whose beneficiaries are Richard Branson and his family.

Virgin Care now has contracts in a number of areas including: musculoskeletal, dermatology, adult community health, children and young person’s community health and sexual health services. Recent contracts include ones for community health in North Kent and in Wiltshire, both of which cover a large number of services.

It is also trying to take over CCGs [clinical commissioning groups], created by the Tories’ 2012 healthcare act, supposedly to put more control of NHS services into the hands of GPs. But these groups were mixed from the start and always included business interests. And now those interests are busy driving out the GPs — who have their hands full dealing with patients.

The result is having CCGs dominated by vested interests — often the same vested interests that are now running the privatised hospitals and other services. A perfect way to milk taxpayers and patients at the same time.