Report on 20 March meeting: Dr Charles West on the threat to the NHS

John Firth [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsDr Charles West gave us an extremely lucid and informative overview of what has been happening to our NHS since its inception in 1948, chronicling with examples the slow destruction of an amazing organisation by politicians from all the major parties.

In the early 2000s, figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that the NHS was among the best-performing health services in the world by most criteria, while costing less than most.

Market rules really do not apply to such an organisation, yet they are constantly forced upon the NHS. Adjustments and interference from the time of Margaret Thatcher have led to increased bureaucracy, competition between hospitals and are leading to escalating costs. There is a steady trend towards outsourcing contracts, and to sections being taken over by the private sector.

Among a huge list of concerns is fragmentation of services, which is damaging to integrated health care, serious conflicts of interest, cherry-picking of profitable services and asset-stripping. This is a depressing scenario which could soon be irreversible.

Dr West thinks there is still room for hope that if we keep reminding the politicians as we approach the next election, we can deter them from destroying our NHS. To get them to accept that the whole internal market is wasteful, destructive and unnecessary will be a more difficult task.

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