NHS

Adrian Ramsay, Deputy Leader of the Green PartyAdrian Ramsay is the Deputy Leader of the Green Party and below is an excerpt of his conference speech on the NHS.

“Did the Lib Dems really believe the Tories when they promised no major changes to the NHS? Do they really think they’ve achieved much with a fresh consultation and tweaks to the plans?

“Make no mistake, the Tory-LibDem proposals threaten the founding principles of our National Health Service and they do this by shifting more responsibility and delivery of healthcare out of public hands.

“The Secretary of State for Health would no longer have to guarantee health services are provided across the country – he would only have to ‘promote’ universal coverage.

“But what does ‘promote’ actually mean? A government billboard saying ”Tesco dentists, coming here soon; every filling helps”. The Government’s plan is one where private companies provide services commissioned by GPs, paid for by taxpayers. But the British Medical Association is clear: most GPs want to focus on treating patients not commissioning. Most doctors aren’t interested in an internal market competing for sickness contracts, they believe in the NHS as a co-operative of caring professionals, pulling together.

“This spirit was eroded by successive Tory and Labour governments as hospitals became trusts bidding against one another. Suddenly a clever way to make a hip operation cheaper became a commercial advantage to guard, not an innovation to share. As private businesses get involved cooperation suffers. Fundamentally, businesses care about profit not people, about wealth and not health.

“They’ll bid for the services that are easiest to run or squeeze money from – not expensive care which is hard to deliver. What’s left of the NHS will be starved of the money private companies cream off.

“Why don’t other parties ever learn that farming things out to the private sector doesn’t save money but does compromise quality?

“We saw it when Labour promoted PFI for hospitals and schools, the Green Party warned that this would compromise quality. We said it would put us in debt to private companies for decades – and a recent report by the Treasury Select Committee agreed.

“But a few MPs realising is not enough, we need them all to learn the lessons of past failures: NHS privatisation is a bad deal for the patient and a bad deal for the taxpayer. It does matter who delivers your care – not just what it costs.

“We have a clear message for the Government: we’re proud of the NHS. We still believe in healthcare free at the point of delivery. We still believe in healthcare based on clinical need, not ability to pay. We haven’t stopped believing in healthcare to meet the needs of everyone, and we reject NHS privatisation.

“With so many crucial public services being axed across the country, it’s hard to foresee the extent of the devastation, but it’s clear who will suffer most – the elderly, low-income families, carers, refugees, disabled people.

“When David Cameron says we should ‘do more with less?’ – does he really mean we should ‘do less for those with least’?

“If we don’t stand up for the vulnerable, society as a whole loses out.”

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