Let the people set the agenda for the remaining NHS debates by Calder Valley parliamentary politicians

The first NHS debate between Calder Valley parliamentary hopefuls and the current MP Craig Whitaker ran along familiar lines.  The politicians repeated what they have already said several times in other situations.

There were only two unexpected comments.

    • Craig Whitaker MP accused Labour Parliamentary Candidate Josh Fenton Glynn of “schoolboy politics”, instead of repeating his earlier slur that Josh was a “stick of celery”.
    • The LibDem Parliamentary Candidate, Alisdair McGregor, said that in the next Coalition Government, which he seemed confident would happen, LibDems would push for the widespread roll out of Personal Health Budgets (despite the fact that the Dutch experience of Personal Health Budgets has been that they led to escalating costs and widespread abuse, with the result that the Dutch have radically reduced their availability – which Mr McGregor didn’t mention.)

For anyone who wasn’t at the first debate, and isn’t already familiar with what the politicians usually say, here is Roger O’Doherty’s recording of the debate.

So now we can all hear what the three politicians said, how about them speaking in future debates about what matters to the public? Instead of unreeling their party lines again?

If you think this would be good, please give your ideas here, about the NHS issues that are most important to you, that you’d like to hear the three Calder Valley Parliamentary politicians’ views on.

Through a glass, darkly

If the Calder Valley parliamentary politicians’ NHS debate on Thursday 25th September showed one thing – apart from the predictability of their party lines – it was how differently politicians talk about the NHS, compared to the rest of us.

Since I’ve been reporting on the Calderdale Save Our A&E campaign to stop the NHS cuts and sell offs, I’ve  listened to scores if not hundreds of people talking about the NHS.

These conversations have been intimate, revealing and full of shared feelings of love and appreciation for the NHS and the people who work in it – mixed with anxiety, confusion and outrage at the effects of the cuts, sell offs and smoke and mirrors that increasingly afflict the NHS. An institution that people recognise as embodying what is best about us and our society.

The debating politicians, in contrast, spoke about the NHS as if it were far, far away.

Through a glass, darkly.

This dark glass is something that I’ve noticed sliding down whenever most politicians speak of the NHS.

And it seems to me that the dark glass that stands between politicians and the rest of us, is that to them, the NHS is a means to an electoral end – not something they value for itself.

The NHS is what will get them elected – or kicked out of office, depending on the promises they make about it.

And this dark glass also hides the fact that more unites the politicians than divides them.

21st century governments have outsourced policy making to pro-privatisation think tanks and management consultancy companies that stand to gain from government spending

At a time when government has been hollowed out and turned into a provider of corporate welfare, and corporate interests hold sway over government policy making, no politician from any of the three main parties dares to admit they are dancing to the tune of corporate interests.

New Labour opened up the Department of Health to management consultancy firms like McKinsey and to pro-privatisation think tanks like the Nuffield Trust and the Kings Fund.

Between them, these corporate cuckoos promoted a system of health care in the community developed by an American private health care company called Kaiser Permanente.

This led to a swathe of New Labour NHS privatising “reforms”.

Under the Coalition government, the Nuffield Trust and  Kings Fund think tanks were instrumental in drafting Section 3 of the stealth-privatising Health and Social Care Act 2012.

This is the bit of the Act, about integrated health and social care, that has driven Calderdale and Huddersfield’s “Right Care Right Time Right Place” proposals for NHS cuts and sell offs.

Despite Craig Whitaker MP telling the audience that the “Right Care Right Time Right Place” proposals are a local plan made by local doctors and nurses for local people, in fact this is a top-down proposal that is being rolled out across the whole of England.

Although everywhere it is presented as a local plan, under different names.

Differences between the 3 politicians seem to be more differences of degree than of kind.

In government, all three parties have come up with policies to privatise the NHS

Now the Labour Conference has come up with promises to undo NHS cuts and sell offs that Josh Fenton Glynn said he was proud of.

But like Tom Waits sang,

“The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”

In my opinion, politics – and the NHS – are too important to be left to politicians.

There are three more Calder Valley NHS debates – what would you like them to be about?

Why not say what NHS issues matter to you here?

Otherwise in the three remaining debates our politicians will probably roll out the same old same old, from behind their dark glass of electoral calculation and hidden servitude to corporate interests.

In my opinion, maybe a good place for the politicians to start would be for them to talk about how the “Right Care Right Time Right Place” scheme is an exact fit with the “Life Sciences” business plan agenda of Big Pharma and digital technology companies, as pushed internationally by management consultancy company Ernst and Young.

Big Pharma is desperate for a new business model, as patents for its blockbuster drugs are running out. And digital technology companies, having pretty much exhausted the entertainment market, see individual health care apps and technologies as a big new cash cow.

The combination of smart drugs and smart technology offers a profitable future for these industries, and they will be delivered to patients out-of-hospital, in home or community health care networks – like those proposed in Calderdale in the Right Care Right Time Right Place scheme – now re-branded as “Care Closer to Home.”

Ernst and Young are also members of a covert group of companies that are jockeying to take over the commissioning support role for local clinical commissioning groups, when the Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) are privatised in 2015 or 2016.

This would put them – and other similar companies which are also part of the group – in line for £1bn worth of work.

It would also put them in the position to advise local clinical commissioning groups, like Calderdale CCG, on what services to commission and which “providers” to buy them from.

This group – the Commissioning Support Industry Group (CSIG) – meets regularly with NHS England, and it is chaired and run by United Health, the giant US health insurer that formerly employed NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens.

United Health recently paid for senior health managers to visit its health care companies in the United States.

This web of vested interests means that members of the CSIG would be likely to promote the interests of United Health, if NHS England were to give them the contracts to run the privatised Commissioning Support Units.

So we would end up paying United Health and similar global health care companies to provide NHS health care services, and these services would be run in ways that “harmonise” with the way the private health care companies work in America.

As well as Ernst & Young, the CSIG members are the usual management consultancy suspects: KPMG, Capita, McKinsey, and PWC plus Low Associates, a lobbying firm run by Sally Low, wife of former health secretary Andrew Lansley, that helps co-ordinate meetings of the CSIG.

NHS England is the quango set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to commission specialist health services and GP services, and to oversee the activities of local clinical commissioning groups.

Before working for United Health, NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens was Tony Blair’s health adviser during the New Labour government.

New Labour’s NHS privatising policy was based on transforming the NHS into a version of the American private health care system as exemplified by the Kaiser Permanente company.

The Right Care Plans, and the related Better Care Fund proposal that dovetails Caldedale Council’s social care and public health services with the proposed Right Care NHS system, explicitly state that they are based on the Kaiser Permanente system.

So the thread from New Labour NHS privatisation policies to Coalition government privatisation policies is unbroken. And what links them both is the surrender of the government’s NHS policy making to the same bunch of global corporate interests.

This is an issue I would like our 3 parliamentary politicians to discuss at their next debates. I reckon it could take them all 3 debates to deal with properly.

My Open Democracy article about Personal health Budgets is here.

A Guardian article about the covert Commissioning Support Industry Group is here

Ernst & Young’s 2012 promotion of the “Healthcare everywhere” business model, that closely fits the Right Care proposals, is here

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