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Privatisation’s creeping tide will engulf the NHS eventually



I don’t do much non-medical reading.

I used to be a voracious reader, but as more of my day is consumed with medical reading and concentration on all matters related to the day job, my non-medical reading has virtually disappeared: it was a luxury of a time when there was good quality leisure time. I don’t have that any more, and I suppose I have got out of the habit of reading.

Even in bed, after half a chapter I am too tired: some call it ‘brain fag’, I call it mental exhaustion.

The only time I can read normally is when I am on holiday, and that means one book every two days. I love holidays.

On holiday five years ago, under a warm Mediterranean sun, I read a book by a Canadian Journalist, Naomi Klein, called The Shock Doctrine. It is a powerful and riveting read, especially if you are interested in international politics, like I am.

Klein’s thesis is that international financial organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have now been completely taken over by a strand of economists who adhere to the principles of Hayek and Friedman.

Their overriding philosophy is that the State’s provision should be minimalist, and all services should be contracted out on the basis of competition and choice.

Whenever a country had a national disaster, or needed the help of the IMF in dire financial straights, then the deal was that they would get help, but had to restructure according to the new economic norms of the Chicago School of Economics. This was combined with suppressing opposition and ignoring public opinion: they must take their medicine to get help.

The book had enough of effect on me to read it a second time, with a mixture of fascination and dread: it described nasty things that could only happen in foreign places, a third world problem. Or so I thought.

We are now in the middle of quite a nasty recession, with the poor economic news scheduled to continue for a few years yet. I see the effects of this every day in the stories my patients tell me.

I see police officers bemoaning cuts to their service, nurses who are stressed as they have to work harder, with fewer staff, on a job that gets ever more demanding. I see people with social work qualifications, working as care assistants as there are no jobs available in the field they trained for.

The recession has been used as a reason for many changes to be made to the social fabric of the UK. The idea of universal health care provided via a state-organised system is being slowly changed, so in the next few years we will see the NHS logo as merely a franchise symbol for a whole group of private enterprises, whose primary function is to make money for their shareholders and directors – not to provide an optimal health care service.

Why have these changes not resulted in demonstrations on the streets? There have been demonstrations but they were ignored by the BBC, now largely under the control of the Government, and there was little publicity.

People are also not that aware as they have been seduced by the propaganda, and are struggling with a recession, which is hitting them very hard.

Over the next two years or so the privatisation by stealth will be rolled out, irreversibly, and the service will become much more like an American system of health. Naomi Klein’s observations on the Third World are now being enacted in our First World. Scary reading.

The Jobbing Doctor is a GP in a deprived urban area of England