Anyone who read much of yesterday’s coverage of the Care Quality Commission’s report on GP practices could be forgiven for believing that great swathes of general practice in the UK are delivered to a poor standard. However, scratch the surface and it is clear that such a view is far from reality. The CQC’s investigation examined 910 GP practices and found that a third were failing to offer an adequate standard of care. However, what the headlines don’t tell us is that of those 910, 80% were selected because they were already known to be causing concern; just 20% were picked at random. The headline of the story could therefore just as easily be “Majority of previously poor GP practices now performing well.” But that doesn’t fit with the strategy of the Government and its right-wing newspaper cheerleaders. For some time now it has been clear that the Government’s plan has been to denigrate the NHS so that it can invite in private companies to run more and more of the service. I have been shocked by how many MPs have interests in the very same private health companies who will benefit from this strategy. These are the same MPs that voted through the Health & Social Care Act that enabled this creeping privatisation. If we Councillors behaved like this, we’d be slung out and probably jailed. There’s a clear conflict of interest.
The NHS is not perfect and efforts should be made to root out poor service but let’s not pretend that the failings are widespread. Only a third of those GP practices previously thought to be poor were actually poor.
My belief that our health system is highly desirable was only strengthened by a recent visit to the USA. Here, despite the somehow controversial Affordable Care Act, many still struggle with the costs of healthcare. Several people I spoke to raised, unprompted, healthcare as an issue of concern. I spoke to a woman who was still paying off the cost of simple throat surgery. She told me about how she had to pay not only the cost of the surgery itself but also thousands of dollars in tests too. A study earlier this year found that healthcare costs caused 2 million personal bankruptcies in the US, making it the biggest single cause of such financial hardship. It is imperative that we halt our slide towards a market-dominated system. The NHS is a victim of its own success, keeping people alive for longer, often dependant on expensive medication and treatment. In order to deal with the increasing costs, we need to have a debate. Should we increase taxes to pay for it or are there other revenue streams that could be harnessed? Whatever, we need to push back against the wave of deliberately misleading, negative NHS commentary emanating from the Government.