Tory Press Exposes NHS Scandal after Scandal – Why?
‘The Daily Mail’, ‘Daily Express’ and ‘The Telegraph’ vie with each other almost every day with horror stories about the NHS today or in the recent past. Nicholson, Stafford, A&E closures, NHS 111, Leeds heart surgery, Morecambe Bay, loss making, Bower, CQC, redacted reports, Furness, whistleblowers, cover-up, Burnham, Lansley….it just goes on and on.
Is the Tory press supporting the Coalition’s recipe for radical changes in the NHS by publicising these shambles?
Well….maybe this is true but as an approach it’s wearing a bit thin as the Tory led Coalition has now been in power for over three years. NHS institutional and staff failings are of course meat and drink for those right wingers who want to flood the NHS with private healthcare providers.
And Please – Don’t Blame the Patients!
Allegations are also being thrown around every day that patients are visiting A&E when they should be phoning NHS 111, making an appointment with their GP or treating themselves!
I am one of millions of citizens who have paid National Insurance for decades for the £110 billion annual spend on the NHS to care for me for free at the point of service delivery. If I have an in-growing toe nail/heart attack which is giving me pain and I can’t sleep I’ll do whatever I can to gain relief. I may not know about NHS 111 or find can’t get through to them. My out of hours GP may not be available – so I would get myself down to my local A&E WHILE IT STILL EXISTS!
1,500 Whistleblowers Victimised in NHS
The charity Compassion in Care (CiC) reported in June that 1,500 people had lost their jobs or were victimised by trying to expose abuse, cover-up or wrongdoing. ‘Private Eye’ quotes Eileen Chubb of CiC rating both the 1999 Public Interest Disclosure Act and the new Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act as unfit for purpose in offering any meaningful protection for whistleblowers. See www.compassionincare.com. The campaign group Whistleblowers UK wants a US style ombudsman with specialist lawyers to help those seeking to make public interest disclosures. See www.whistleblowers.uk.com.
Bureaucratic Response to Crises – Public Consultations
If it’s broke then go into public consultations mode seems to be the current response in accident and emergency, and care quality;
+ NHS A&E public consultation till 11 August 2013 – www.england.nhs.uk
+ Care Quality Commission public consultation till 12 August 2013 – www.cqc.org.uk
Private Healthcare Companies Cutting Corners
In 2011 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rated the NHS as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The NHS Support Federation has been tracking NHS service deterioration in recent years (www.nhscampaign.org). It notes many instances of private healthcare suppliers cutting corners. Currently causing concern are:
+ BMI/Netcare – children’s surgery halted
+ Care UK – failure to process 6,000 x-ray records
+ Carillion – 6 patients fear sight loss
+ Harmoni (Care UK) – out-of-hours service alleged to be ‘unsafe’
+ Netcare – Celia Collet case study of poor care
+ Serco – not enough staff and ‘fiddled’ figures
+ PIP – breast implant scandal
+ Virgin – understaffing at Kings Health Centre
First NHS Performance League Table Published – Branded as ‘Virtually Useless’
On 28 June 2013 the first performance league table for NHS medics was published. 472 Vascular surgeons were the lucky NHS professionals to be the first to rated and ranked. Several surgeons were listed as having the highest crude mortality rates in the country. ‘The Guardian’ quotes that a Simon Payne, a vascular surgeon based at Portsmouth Hospitals, had a ‘death rate of 31% – 10 times the national average and 30 times higher than some of his colleagues’. This rate related to two key vascular operations. Upon contacting Portsmouth Hospitals they told the newspaper that ‘Simon Payne has not carried out that procedure since 2011 after he had a shoulder injury’!
Professor Ben Bridgewater of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (www.hqip.org.uk) branded these crude estimates as ‘virtually useless’ as they failed to take into account the number of emergency cases, the age of the patients or the complexity of each operation.
A farcical development was that the tables had to be hurriedly re-issued. The new tables lowered the crude mortality figures substantially in many cases.
I await with bated breath the time when Members of Parliament Performance League Tables are researched and published.
Medical Insurers Alert Competition Commission of Serious Lack of Private Healthcare Competition in Central London
Articles in ‘The Independent’ and ‘The Times’in June 2013 revealed details spilling out of the Competition Commission’s investigation into private healthcare in the UK.
We hear about the unhealthy domineering position of US private health care provider HCA in London. HCA UK apparently caters for about half of all private patients in London and 72% of all critical care in Greater London. It owns the Harley Street Clinic, the Portland Hospital, the Lister Hospital and the London Bridge Hospital. HCA UK also has joint NHS ventures all providing cancer care, renting space from public hospitals for exclusive private treatment at UCH and Queens Hospital Romford. HCA UK’s profits before tax in 2006 were £30 million. By 2012 this had increased to £61.7 million.
Complaints Against Private Healthcare Providers On The Rise
20,316 grievances against health insurance companies were filed with the FSA last year. This is an increase of 38% over the last two years. BUPA was hit hardest by this increase in complaints. Grievance issues included:
+ Unexpected bills for excess payments after routine operations
+ A limited choice of consultants
+ Poor handling of claims
Private healthcare providers have been under investigation for more than a year since the Office of Fair Trading raised concerns about:
+ Poor transparency
+ Limited competition
+ Alleged cosy deals between insurers and hospital operators
Drug Companies Face Accusations of Overcharging NHS Hundreds of Millions of Pounds
An undercover investigation by ‘The Telegraph’ has resulted in allegations that the buy-in price to the NHS of more than 20,000 drugs could have been artificially inflated, with backhanders paid to chemists who agreed to sell the drugs.
The drugs involved are so called ‘Specials’ which are prescribed when a patient has a clinical need that cannot be met by a normal licensed medicine.
The newspaper investigation was launched after being approached by a whistleblower. The companies named in the allegations include Pharmarama, Temag and Quantum Pharmaceutical.
Jeremy Hunt MP, the Health Secretary, is quoted as having ordered an investigation into the allegations which he finds ‘deeply concerning’. And so he should.
49% of GPs Say They ‘Can No Longer Guarantee Safe Care’
A profoundly worrying survey of family doctors by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) reveals that 49% of them can’t guarantee safe care and 85% think General Practice is ‘in crisis’. Some GPs are having to deal with 60 patients a day.
General Practice currently receives only 9% of NHS funding, despite family doctors carrying out 90% of all NHS contacts.
Is Atos Fit For Purpose?
‘Private Eye’ in June exposed significant failures of delivery by Atos in the way it is assessing disabled people for the new Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). A year after a £184 million contract was signed just four NHS and four physiotheraphy providers in London /SE England have been signed up to provide assessment centres. What was promised in 2012 was a network of 740 assessment centres across London/SE England operated by 22 NHS and private healthcare providers.
The disabled in London/SE England are now incurring extended journey times travelling to assessment centres for PIP – in some cases totalling 90 minutes.