Did you ever find yourself in a place and you had no idea how you got there?
So last week I found myself at a medical appointment and it was being delivered by a private company. I didn’t ask for the private company. I was sent an NHS letter that gave me the appointment. The appointment was in an NHS hospital. But it was nonetheless being delivered by a private company.
Now I should say I was grumpy anyway. My anxiety levels were through the roof because, well all of these appointments are anxiety inducing.
The thing is that I had had the exact same procedure carried out in the RVH by NHS staff on NHS time and it was a lot better. I mean a lot. The staff were more professional. They made what is a 45 minute ordeal as easy as physically and mentally possible and I was not treated like one of the cattle. The private healthcare provider did none of the above. And it was carried out in a container on the grounds of the hospital.
But it wasn’t just that the provider was less than the NHS standard, it was that I had no choice. Until this week I hadn’t noticed the creeping privatisation of the NHS. I definitely knew that lots of people had been choosing to get private appointments when they had been placed on NHS waiting lists that were months and years long. I was very aware of that. But all of those people were making an informed choice. Choosing “to go private”. And we can all have our views on it good, bad or indifferent. But here is my Umbridge. I did not choose the private practitioner in this case.
Neither did the person close to me who has been waiting for months for an ultrasound appointment who was sent one from the NHS sending him to a private practitioner.
Neither did the other person close to me who went for a chest x-ray in an NHS hospital who was told she would not get the results for 6 weeks because the xray will go to a firm who will read it and send it back to her GP. Really.
We have, through no choice of our own, become complicit in the creeping privatisation of the NHS. And I deeply resent it. It is as clear as the nose on our face that those who want to make money out of delivering health care are gaining contracts at the exact same time as the NHS suffers crippling underinvestment. Them offering an earlier appointment is not an act of civil service. It is part of the dismantling of the Service.
And worryingly now the NHS is subject to being sued by these private contractors! Richard Branson recently successfully sued the NHS because he was not awarded a contract to deliver children’s palliative care. How depraved will this system become?
If I am forced to live under British occupation (and I am), and I pay taxes to the British Inland Revenue (andI do), then I can defend the one good thing to come out of Britain with the entirely subversive view that a new Ireland will have its own NHS. But if things keep going like this a whole service will have to be rebuilt.