Category Archives: Health and Social Care Act 2012

This article was first published by Simon Collins at HIV i-Base on 2 September 2019.

On 2 September 2019, leading HIV charities including HIV i-Base and the UK-Community Advisory Board (UK-CAB), published an open letter to Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities, calling for an urgent intervention to include sexual health in the upcoming Government Spending Round. [1]

In England, the responsibility for sexual health was disastrously shifted from the NHS to local authorities, whose public health budgets have been cut in real terms by £700 million over the last five years.

These cuts have directly reduced access to sexual health services, where many people are unable to routinely access treatment and testing due to limitations in allocation of daily appointments.

Many of these cuts disproportionately affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) and black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and young people.

A similar joint letter calling for increased funding for sexual health was also sent today by LGBT+ groups from the Labour, LibDeb and Conservative parties.

Last year, a review of services in South London reported that 1 in 8 people with symptoms were being turned away from sexual health clinics. This included 40% who were under 25 years old and 6% who were under 18.

References

  1. Green I et al. Urgent request to intervene: Funding for sexual health services. 2 September 2019.
    http://www.tht.org.uk
  2. Collins S. Almost 1 in 8 people with symptoms turned away from sexual health clinics in SE London: 40% are under 25 and 6% under 18 years old. HTB 01 May 2018.
    http://i-base.info/htb/33968

Please see this Press Release from BASHH (British Association of Sexual Health and HIV) and BHIVA (British HIV Association) from October 2018: Government funding cuts leave sexual health and HIV care at ‘breaking point’

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The title of the new GP contract is “ Investment and evolution: A five- year framework for GP contract reform to implement the NHS Long Term Plan.” 31.1.19 (Framework)

The main aim of NHS England’s ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ 7.1.19 (LTPlan) is to establish Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) throughout England by 2021. And for these to evolve into Integrated Care Providers (ICPs) (Ps 29 – 31 LTPlan) ICSs and ICPs were previously called Accountable Care Systems (ACSs) and Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs). It was against the latter that Judicial Reviews were fought by NHS campaigners from 2017.

In January 2018, Pollock & Roderick exposed the potential for single contract organization ACOs to be run by private companies to make profit out of commissioning and providing health and social care for large populations of NHS registered patients, on huge longterm contracts. (1.) The purpose of ICSs and ICPs it to totally transform 1) the payment systems and 2) the commissioning and delivery systems of health and social care in England, along the lines of US Accountable Care. (1.2.3.) In the latter, providers of healthcare are incentivized to work together, to commission and provide the vast majority of healthcare for a whole population, on a capitated budget. The commissioner and provider align objectives to make a surplus on the budget, whilst pledged to achieve quality standards.

The basic principle is that of American Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs); “ the less care you provide, the more money you make.” Methods used to commission and provide care below budget are to; develop keen leaders, risk segment the population, sophisticated digital systems to promote virtual consultations, share patient data and collect data on health service use and cost, and ‘integrated Multidisciplinary teams” of mainly non-doctors adherent to managed care pathways providing 24 hour continuity of care to keep patients out of hospital substituting for doctors as often as possible. Ruthless imperatives are to *reduce ‘skill mix’, *continually redesign care to cheapen and cut it and *stop patients accessing hospital care.

The favoured payment systems are; a) capitated budgets ( whole Population budgets ) b) performance related rewards e.g QOF and CQUINs in England c) ‘Shared Savings Schemes’ All of the above characterize “ A new Service Model for the 21st Century” promoted in the LTPlan ( Chapters 1 &7) and the Framework.

But the confusing way they are written disguises the US style Accountable Care being smuggled in.

The reference to ICS boards on Page 30 LTPlan actually refers to the STP boards (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership boards) already imposed in 44 areas of England in 2016.
Their remit, known from STP plans, is to make huge cuts, reconfigure care out of District General Hospitals, develop a ‘local system workforce’ with ‘new roles’, divert elective care into the private sector and get GPs into ‘scale’ integrated primary care systems.
The barrier to the latter, despite all the super practices, federations and primary care networks that have been created in the last five years by NHSE, is the fear amongst GP principals that they would lose their independent NHS contractor status and their life long General Medical Services (GMS) contracts. This would be the case in ICPs.
GPs are right to be worried. The strategy is to ‘supercede’ so called ‘ cottage industry’ GP practices, with ‘post industrial’ care, through ‘family care networks’. (4) The Framework is being hailed as the solution. NHSE is happy that GPs are being herded into new Primary Care Networks ( PCNs ) enabling the establishment of ICSs, allover England by 2021. The BMA applauds the Framework as a victory for saving GPs’core primary medical services contracts for now.
But the title gives the game away. It is five-year GP contract reform “to implement the NHS Long Term plan.” GPs are being told to sign up to a Network Contract DES ( Directed Enhanced Services ) (5) as an “extension” to their core practice contract AND a Network Agreement, which is a legal integration agreement. “ The PCN is a foundation of all integrated care systems;…” ( P 30 p4.28 Framework)

The practices, in agreeing to the Network Contract DES, AND the Network Agreement are bound to work together, share patient and other data, carry out network specifications, share network funding for new non- doctor network staff ( >22,000 of them over 5 years ) and deliver other urgent care and extended hours services.
The network agreement requires that providers of other medical and social care, join the new PCN, e.g. community providers such as dentistry, optometry, Virgin run nursing, charities, acute and mental health trusts and local authority social care, over time. In this way the new PCN becomes an integration machine.

In signing the Network Contract and Network Agreement ( and agreeing an area covering 30 to 50,000 or more population, giving their patient list numbers, choosing a Clinical Director to sit on the Sustainability and Transformation (STP) board, and deciding which NHS contracted body will receive central network funds,) the member practices would form a new PCN.

Practices are being jumped into joining new PCNs by 30.6.19. Although this is supposed to be voluntary, pressure is being applied for 100% coverage.
The new PCNs would work under the direction of the STP via the Clinical Director and must deliver LTPlan and STP directives and protocols, i.e. commissioner diktats, or network funding stops.

In this way the STP in the area ( 1-2mn population) would become REAL.- in the sense of running GPs and patient lists as their delivery arm. ICSs = STP boards + PCNs. ICSs cannot function without NHS registered patient lists.
Astonishingly, whether practices join the new PCN or not, their patients will belong to the Network anyway (P 28. p 4.19) and network services would still be provided to those patients.

Two critical consequences flow from this Framework; 1. Patient lists will in future belong to the practice AND to the network.
The ownership of NHS patient lists will in this way be acquired by the ICSs. 2. GPs will be working to their original practice contracts AND to the Network contracts. The two contracts would be double running.
GPs are being assured that as they still retain their core practice contracts, – all be-it overlayed by the Network Contract DES, and the network integration agreement – that they are safe and their original GP primary medical services duties would remain the same.
But for those with eyes to see, -with the augmentation of network funds over five years, ( £1.8bn nationally compared to £1bn for the core practices ) the flooding -in of new non -doctor network staff to do GP work, requirements to perform new ways of working, and redesign care, and diktats to reduce hospital referrals and cut hospital care to achieve ‘shared savings’ for the ICS, – that GPs would lose their autonomous leadership role of patient advocate, prioritizing optimal care for their patients. GPs would find themselves driven by perverse incentives to endorse the constant cheapening of care and denial of hospital treatment.
GP practices would become entangled in the Networks physically and financially and find it difficult to get out again. They would be better to not sign up. Over half of GPs are now salaried sessional or locums and the BMA GP membership has not had a vote.
This Framework is a thousand times worse than the GP contract change in 2004. It aims to herd GP practices into new integrating networks which form the basis of giant ICSs throughout England. Through multiyear GP Network contract changes, the Framework enables ICSs to ‘evolve, and paves the way for fully integrated ICPs on single long term NHS contracts, tailor-made for international corporate takeover.
The American model has been pursued in England by successive governments since Enthoven recommended HMO Kaiser Permanente to Mrs Thatcher in 1990. Simon Stevens, (Blair’s health advisor 1997 – 2004, vice president of UnitedHealth the biggest US health insurance company 2004 – 2014) was appointed CE of NHSE in 2014 by David Cameron, and then advocated ACO style ‘new models of care’ in the Five Year Forward View. (6) American accountable care methods are now being imposed in England from within by NHSE, well before President Trump opened his mouth about more US trade deals.
These proposals should be exposed and opposed by all who treasure the NHS publicly provided according to clinical need, comprehensive and free at the point of use.

Anna Athow

annaathow@btinternet.com

9.6.19

references;

  1.  “ Why we should be concerned about accountable care organisations in England’s NHS.” 30.1.18 BMJ 2018; 360 doi: https//:doi.org/org/10.1136/bmj.k343
  2. UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernisation “ 2012FAREWELL TO FEE-FOR-SERVICE A “Real World “strategy for Health Care” Dec 2012: https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2012/UNH-Working-Paper-8.pdf
  3. “Accountable Care’- the American import that’s the last thing England’s NHS needs.” Stewart Player, 1.3.16 https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/stewart-player/accountable-care-american-import-thats-last-thing-englands-nhs-needs
  4. “Commissioning and funding general practice Making the case for family care networks.” 2014 Rachael Addicott & Chris.P 38 https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/co mmissioning-­‐and-­‐funding-­‐general-­‐practice-­‐kingsfund-­‐feb14.pdf
  5. “Network Contract Directed Enhanced Service” NHSE 29.3.19  https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-­‐content/uploads/2019/03/network-­‐contract-­‐des-­‐specification-­‐2019-­‐20-­‐v1.pdf
  6. “The Multispecialty community provider ( MCP ) emergingcare model and contract framework” July 2016 Gateway 05637 https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-­‐content/uploads/2016/12/1693_DraftMCP-­‐1a_A.pdf
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Integrated Care is the most recent re-naming of Accountable Care: the system currently being implemented in the NHS in England and which is derived from the US. This blog addresses issues arising from this implementation and whether or not Integrated Care is fit for public purpose.

The narrative that comes from Westminster, echoed by parts of the media and even some campaigners, is that whilst cuts and closures, underfunding, understaffing and poor NHS management at the highest levels are all contributory factors to the problems the NHS faces, there is no overarching concern with Integrated Care itself.

On the contrary, the bringing together of commissioners (purchases of services) and providers of services is viewed as getting rid of the hated ‘purchaser-provider split’ which is isolated in this narrative from all other structural components and becomes a proxy for the market system. On this point alone the move to Integrated Care is seen as a stepping stone to a return to public service. There is even some movement to reclaim ‘integrated’ as a term of public service.

There are very good reasons why tackling this issue head on may be politically sensitive. Labour is keen to claim for itself not only the creation of the NHS (which it historically deserves) but a current role as the best defence against Trump. The Secretary of State for Health also claims that he will not allow the NHS to be in US-UK trade talks ‘on his watch’. That is understandable, but the love affair of the major UK political parties with United Health and Kaiser Permanente, amongst others, goes more than skin deep. US Integrated Care has been introduced into the NHS piecemeal over the last 30 years and we are now into the full adoption of an NHS ‘version’ being rolled out at speed. It’s here where the argument lies for politicians, think tanks and amongst campaigners . A question mark is raised over its origins and over whether it is irredeemably bad for the NHS or not.

Our counter argument is threefold:
1. The Integrated Care System does not in fact remove the ‘purchaser-provider split’, but merely changes it to a different type.
2. The constraints put upon the NHS to meet the requirements of Integrated Care are set out in terms of restructuring the service in such a way that it will no longer meet the key tenets embedded in it from its creation: delivering all services for everyone within (mostly) easy reach.
3. “One thing the community cannot do is insure against itself. What it can and must do is to set aside an agreed proportion of the national revenues for the creation and maintenance of the service it has pledged itself to provide.” Bevan’s statement worked on a national level while the ICS model creates a risk and reward system in which profit and loss are to be shared locally between the constituent players of 44 ‘local health economies’. This is entirely upending the basis for financing the NHS.

Integrated Care
The concept of Integrated Care is a longstanding method in the United States which was created to try and reduce the healthcare costs which are spiralling out of control. The most expensive part of any healthcare system anywhere in the world is acute care. It needs higher concentrations of staff per patient, more infrastructure – both buildings and equipment – and changes more rapidly than other parts of the service in its response to technological advances.
It follows from an accounting point of view that any measures which can be taken to ‘reduce demand’ on the acute sector will reduce costs. Part of the cost reduction exercise in the US involves forming collaborative bodies (Accountable Care Organisations aka Integrated Care) which share profit or loss across the different constituent bodies – that is to say the insurance groups who provide the funding from their clients (state or private) plus various hospitals, GP practices and other health services. The profit and loss sharing is designed to provide incentives for keeping people out of hospital and in theory to keep them more healthy in the community.
From the above, it is clear that purchasing and providing still exist within US Accountable Care and that it in no sense represents a return to the kind of planning required to run a public service NHS. The same is true of the system being implemented in England.

Restructuring the NHS
In order to attempt to meet the accounting criteria behind Integrated Care, the NHS’ historical provision of local GP family practices, local District General Hospitals that include full Accident and Emergency and other local services must be dismantled. Acute and emergency provision is calculated to be more cost effective if it is concentrated in hospitals that service a much larger population. Local hospitals then become satellites to the centralised major trauma hospital no longer offering the full service we are used to.
GPs are being corralled into much larger units which may run the satellite hospital or work from large centralised clinics. Property made ‘surplus’ from these restructurings can be sold as a result.
These changes are an intrinsic part of the development of Integrated Care. They are not optional, nor do they come about only as a result of the last nine years of below inflation funding.
None of the descriptions above are based on assumptions. They all come from official NHS England and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership policy documents. The reality is evident on the ground.

Risk and Rewards
“Risk and reward sharing is underpinned by a theory of change that expects a provider to adjust its behaviour in response to financial incentives”
Early adopters of the ACO model in 2012 in the US, known as Pioneers (see our report on ACOs for more details), were allowed to move to a full capitated budget. This represents the full transfer of risks from the commissioner to the ACO and it means the ACO has the incentive to cut costs in order to maximise its profit share from the budget. As in those early pioneer ACOs, NHS England has made it clear that it wishes to pass all financial risks to the Integrated Care Systems. But unlike the US model, an NHS ICS does not necessarily have to include acute hospital services in its provider collaboratives. As the greatest losses fall on acute hospital services this creates the possibility of a collaborative being formed only from those providers who can best make profits.
Our report into ACOs explains how many of the participants in the early US pioneer programme failed to see many of the implications of a shared savings programme, seeing only its potential benefits. They later discovered that they had serious financial difficulties.
This question of risk and reward sharing is one of the most important issues for an NHS provider and illustrates how they have moved from being government provided services to government commissioned services. Under this scheme an NHS provider could potentially suffer significant losses risking its financial viability to the point where it may collapse as a business.

The failures of private sector providers, as we have seen in recent years, causes inconvenience for commissioners and loss of services for patients but the potential collapse of an NHS body would have far more serious ramifications. There is also the case where a majority of an ICS’ services are provided by private sector organisations which opens the door to profits flowing out of NHS funds. Furthermore the arrangements for how both risks and rewards will be shared between providers adds another layer of complexity to the transaction costs of the NHS. This, of course, provides yet more work for management consultancies, big accountancy firms and lawyers.

What’s to be done?
We fully appreciate the desire of campaigners to achieve victories in the face of what feels to be overwhelming odds. Each local victory does throw a welcome spanner in the works. However, to ignore the structural changes being brought in and not to recognise the part that each individual closure or downgrade plays in the overall pattern of change is to ignore the elephant in the room.
That is why we think the slogan ‘Act Local, Think National’ should always be embedded in every campaign. It is important to understand that the national picture gives the corporate sector a major role in the future of the NHS as it has done increasingly over the last thirty years and that the model currently being adapted is specifically based on US Integrated Care.
This is a system built fundamentally on business principles with competition and the profit motive in its DNA. This is not a system that lends itself to public ownership and provision serving the public interest.
President Trump’s statement about the NHS being on the table in future trade talks set off a raft of responses including Jeremy Corbyn tweeting, ‘Labour will [..] ensure US private companies cannot lay a hand on our NHS. The NHS is not for sale’ and Matt Hancock saying, ‘not on my watch’. It has understandably provoked a lot of comments on social media and discussions in the press about the importance of keeping the US out of the NHS in the future. But the challenge is to change the conversation so that we openly oppose US corporate interests influencing our NHS now.

Deborah Harrington

Who We Are

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This article was first published in the Camden New Journal under the title, Brexit, and spectre of NHS US sell-off, on 16 May 2019.

There is much talk at the moment about the prospect of Brexit resulting in a trade deal with the US which will sell off our NHS to American private healthcare providers.

This fear has also been expressed by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth. [1] But it is critical to understand this “sell-off deal” has been under way for a long time and is fast gaining momentum, argue Susanna Mitchell and Roy Trevelion.

 

The driver of the “sell-off deal” is Simon Stevens, who in 2014 was appointed head of NHS England, the body that controls all NHS spending. Before this, Stevens had been vice-president and CEO of the mammoth American healthcare corporation the UnitedHealth Group.

Stevens has proceeded to “Americanise” the service through his subsequent NHS policy, based on a privatisation strategy he had outlined at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2012. [2]

From first to last, his NHS policy – the Five Year Forward View, the Sustainability and Transformation Plans and Accountable Care Organisations (renamed Integrated Care Programmes) that back it up, and now the 10-year Long Term Plan – have worked to import the US model into the UK.

Unsurprisingly, the UnitedHealth Group will make major gains from this transformation. It is now the largest healthcare company in the world, with a 2018 revenue of $226.2 billion. It has many secondary companies that serve more than a hundred-million people globally. [3]

Over the years it has been prosecuted for fraud and bad faith practices. This included limiting insurance payments to doctors, and not stating its true financial results in reports to shareholders. [4] [5]

One of its fastest growing subsidiaries is Optum (formerly UnitedHealth UK). This is a leading information technology- enabled health services business. In February 2015, it was one of the commercial organisations approved by NHS England as “Lead Providers” to carry out the financial work of GPs.

It is now firmly positioned in the system and ready to take away more public money. [6]

The healthcare system in the United States is hugely more costly, and outstandingly less effective than that in the UK. In terms of funding and wellbeing, there is no rational argument for imposing it on our NHS. The only benefit it brings is increased profits for shareholders in the commercial healthcare sector.

To take three examples, first comparing cost:

On average, other wealthy developed countries spend about half as much per person on health as the US – in the US $10,224 compared to $4,246 in the UK. In 2017 the US federal government spent 7.9 per cent of GDP directly or indirectly on healthcare; however in total, taking into account private expenditure, the US spent a vast $3.5trillion or 18 per cent of GDP. This private sector spending is triple that of comparable countries. [7] [8]  This structure excludes many citizens from affordable health­care. Appallingly, one in four adults skipped a medical treatment in 2017 due to an inability to pay. [9]

Secondly, from the point of view of efficacy and wellbeing, statistics are also devastating. The US has the lowest life expectancy at birth among comparable countries (US 78.6, UK 81.2). Statistics show that life expectancy for both men and women has increased more slowly in the US. It comes 12th in the global life expectancy table. [10]

Thirdly, the US maternal mortality rate is truly shocking. It stands at 26.4 per 100,000 live births, the worst among all developed countries. [11]

In the UK the rate stands at 9.2 per 100,000. [12] [13]

Deaths for African-American women are three to four times higher than for white women. [14]

The infant mortality rate is also worse. The US rate is 5.79 deaths per 1,000 live births. [15]  The UK rate is 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. [16]

It is clear that if we follow the American model of healthcare it can only reduce wellbeing in the UK. Simon Stevens’ “sell-off deal” simply increases the wealth of global corporations (such as the Mayo Clinic, which has recently opened in London [17]).

It is time that this fact was “called out” loudly and clearly. All possible measures must be taken to prevent the continuing imposition of this ineffec­tive and costly system.

Susanna Mitchell and Roy Trevelion are members of the Socialist Health Association.
References, some links, live at the time of writing, may not have been maintained:
[1] BBC Question Time 25.04.2019  at 47.21 ff  https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0004hkk/question-time-2019-25042019 .
[2] https://www.sochealth.co.uk/2017/05/25/truth-stps-simon-stevens-imposed-reorganisation-designed-transnational-capitalism-englands-nhs-stewart-player/
[3] http://selloff.org.uk/nhs/CVforSimonStevens260516.pdf
[4] https://www.sec.gov/news/press/2008/2008-302.htm
[5] https://law.freeadvice.com/insurance_law/insurers_bad_faith/unitedhealth-pays-400-million-in-bad-faith-claim.htm
[6] http://selloff.org.uk/nhs/CVforSimonStevens260516.pdf
[7] https://www.crfb.org/papers/american-health-care-health-spending-and-federal-budget
[8] https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/health-spending-u-s-compare-countries/#item-average-wealthy-countries-spend-half-much-per-person-health-u-s-spends
[9] https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2017-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201805.pdf
[10] https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-life-expectancy-compare-countries/#item-le_the-u-s-has-the-lowest-life-expectancy-at-birth-among-comparable-countries_2019
[11] https://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/528098789/u-s-has-the-worst-rate-of-maternal-deaths-in-the-developed-world?t=1560004210914
[12] https://vizhub.healthdata.org/sdg/
[13] http://digg.com/2017/uk-birth-us-safety-comparison
[14] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/elizabeth-warren-black-maternal-mortality_n_5cc0e93fe4b0ad77ff7f717b?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACQmWXh6QTnSJI5sjLN1KEdQCuSnVb__LEQLJAyEiK2PZwqnVABYxo500JrU24NHWCooflTZAia50H4OJ-YzSPMUqXyGODWHMGcBXUxhfVY-fau-ViM-Ly9n32SQ1vXD-SGhWXohZRVo2givDSEbM1D3TVs38R5MjmfY_5rGZXuP&guccounter=2
[15] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/deaths.htm
[16]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/childhoodinfantandperinatalmortalityinenglandandwales/2016
[17] https://www.medcitybeat.com/news-blog/2019/mayo-clinic-oxford-university-clinic-partnershiphttps://www.medcitybeat.com/news-blog/2019/mayo-clinic-oxford-university-clinic-partnership.

 

 

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Peter Beresford, Professor of Citizen Participation at Essex University and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives, the user led organisation.

Nothing less than a root and branch reform of English social care is now needed. Its funding and principles must be radically reviewed. Only this will end its permanent state of crisis. Nothing else will make anything like a reasonable life possible for the millions of older and disabled people and family carers now suffering-  sometimes in extreme – from its gross failure and ever declining reach. Some commentators still wait hopefully for the promised government green paper that never comes, but given this administration is still committed to its same old neoliberal goals, it is difficult to see why. What’s needed is a fresh start.

According to the NHS’s own figures, since 2009 the number of people receiving adult social care in England has fallen, despite significantly growing levels of need. In 2009 1.8 million people received some adult care services in a 12 months period. Today the figure is estimated just over 1 million, a cut of 44%. People are also receiving less support and in the many cases where they have to pay, paying more. This year Age UK estimated that 1.2 million people don’t receive the care support they need with essential living activities.

Most people assume that social care is provided on the same basis as the NHS, paid for out of general taxation and free at the point of delivery. In fact the absolute opposite is the case. It is a relic of the old much hated Victorian Poor law. It is both means and needs tested. This coupled with years of arbitrary welfare benefits cuts in the name of ‘austerity’ and combatting ‘fraud’, means that the lives of many older and disabled people have never been so insecure, impoverished or undermined since the creation of the post war welfare state.

So that’s the first thing that must change. It’s not just that social care needs to be ‘integrated’ with the NHS – a favourite word of current policymakers – in principle and practice – in values and funding base as a universalist service, free for those who need it. It also need to be based on the philosophy of independent living developed by the disabled people’s movement. This means that instead of framing service users in deficit terms – what they can’t do – it is rebuilt on the fundamental principle of making it possible for them to live their lives on as equal terms as non-disabled people, non-service users. And this demands similarly based income maintenance, housing, education, employment, planning, transport and other policies.

We are not going to see this from right wing governments committed to ‘the small state’, the individualising values of the market, regressive taxation and cutting state spend on supporting people. But this must be the basis for any political party committed for the future to securing the rights and needs of all its citizens (as well as challenging hostility and discrimination against non-citizens).

To achieve this, advocates of truly radical reform of social care, are calling for an ‘independent living service’, which has the financial backing and overview of the treasury and which brings together the roles and responsibilities of all departments to make possible equal lives for the rapidly growing minority of disabled and older people who can expect to need support. Thus, like the NHS it would be harmonised from the centre, to avoid the problems of the present post-code lottery arrangements linked with the current locally led system.

The present loss and impoverishment of many user led organisations; that is to say those directly controlled by disabled people and other service users, needs urgently to be reversed and such a national network supported to be a key provider of support and services on a human and local scale for service users, offering a key source of accessible high quality training and employment to service users for whom employment is a positive and realistic choice.

Finally in an aged of AI – artificial intelligence – social care needs to be reconceived as a major generator of positive relationship-based employment and a net social and economic contributor that can be part of a new sustainable economics and social policy. Here we can see the vanguard of a new planet friendly approach to social policy, that offers the promise of high quality support, high quality employment and truly participatory policy and practice.

Professor Peter Beresford is author of All our Welfare: Towards Participatory Social Policy, Policy Press. He is emeritus professor of social policy at Brunel University London, professor of citizen participation at Essex University and co-chair of Shaping Our Lives.

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Background

The NHS Executive outlined eight groups of suggested legislative changes in the NHS Long Term Plan and, as promised in the Plan, these have now been set out in further detail in Implementing the NHS Long Term Plan: Proposals for possible changes to legislation [1]. The intention is to make it easier for NHS organisations to work together. Ostensibly these proposals are supposed to help the NHS improve its delivery of services but we see real problems here.

Principal objection

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was a package promoting a range of checks and balances on the operation of the NHS, designed to support local commissioning; patient choice and competition at the provider level; governed by arm’s length regulators safeguarding quality and the NHS market; and local authority and consumer scrutiny, consent and supervision.

It is not easy to change one part of this without unravelling the whole but this is what is now proposed. There are good arguments for the complete revocation of this Act with its muddled thinking, naive faith in competition and GP-led commissioning, and the notion that politicians could shirk their own responsibility for taking difficult decisions by passing the buck to NHS managers and regulators.

But such a major change should only be done after full discussion, white papers, consultation and time to debate primary legislation in Parliament. These proposals are nothing more than a way of avoiding full Parliamentary discussion. The danger is that ad hoc tinkering rather than fully thought through reform will do more harm than good.

Lack of evidence

The supposedly new ethos promoted in these changes is ‘integration’ of service provision under one body. This may appear a plausible way forward but it is unproven as an operational principle or as a means of delivering improvements in efficiency or quality. The House of Commons Select Committee[2], the National Audit Office[3] and more recently the Nuffield Trust[4] have all produced highly critical reports of the new fashion for so-called integration. As yet these criticisms have not been answered.

A recent perplexed quote relating to the Greater Manchester (GM) experience sums matters up, “Everyone I’ve spoken to is at a loss to explain why GM’s performance has been so poor, given the progress that’s been made on integration and the transformation investment that’s gone in”, HSJ 25th February. The true lesson here is that integration does not guarantee success. But this is a lesson that NHS bosses do not want to hear.

We have closely monitored projects in various parts of the country that have been forced to pursue this transformation and integration agenda and, in for example Manchester where massive investment has taken place, there is precious little to show for it. The latest reports from the Nuffield Trust show that integration is a more costly model[5]. These proposals therefore lack evidence that the new policy response will succeed.

The downside of the proposals

All new proposals must demonstrate that they will do no harm. But, by making it easier to force mergers and close down acute hospitals in the name of ‘integrating’ services, the NHS is seeking to institutionalise a model that seeks to cut local services for patients without adequate consultation, and push back onto the patient the costs and delays of the failures of care that will result. At least checks and balances were built into the Health and Social Care Act 2012 requiring proper presentation of detailed plans, independent regulator support, widespread local stakeholder support and the right to challenge decisions; these would now be scrapped in favour of a centrally-led structure with NHS England at its heart, leading a purge of NHS capacity as it strives to meet government-imposed arbitrary financial targets.

These proposals are nothing more than a power grab by NHS England to enable its own transformation and integration policies to be imposed on unwilling communities. This is to be achieved by reducing the role of the independent regulators to mere ‘yes men’ as NHS England becomes the only source of power; by elevating the achievement of financial results to the overriding objective (best value); by being unaccountable to local people by removing the link to local accountability which however faulty was the basis for major decisions; and, by promoting a vague and meaningless slogan (integration) as the main principle justifying its activities.

Concluding remarks

This is a power grab by NHS England under cover of the distraction of Brexit to achieve for itself untrammelled power over the future of the NHS. It will then act quickly: a wave of mergers, closures and sub-contracting of new models of care would be unleashed. These changes would be enacted quickly and with very limited means for local people to challenge decisions.

MPs will find themselves and their constituents faced by a fait accompli with little that can be done. Voters in upcoming general and local elections will express their feelings for local hospitals in the traditional way (by voting against politicians who allowed this to happen). But it will be too late. Hospitals and A&E departments once closed rarely re-open. Services sub-contracted for 10-15 years or more will be difficult to restore. Huge integrated care organisations will be monopolistic in attitude and operation, and impossible to be held accountable effectively.

Local authorities will be either incorporated into this mess in return for crumbs off the NHS table, or left out in the cold while decisions take place around them that will push the costs and implications of changes onto patients and communities.

Oppose these changes to legislation. Integration is a smokescreen for NHS England to overrule local objections to service closures.

 

Roger Steer

14.3.2019

[1]

Implementing the NHS Long Term Plan: Proposals for possible changes to legislation

Engagement Document  February 2019 Prepared by: NHS England Strategy & Innovation Directorate and NHS Improvement Strategy Directorate

https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/survey/nhs-long-term-plan-legislation/consult_view/

[2]

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmhealth/650/650.pdf

[3]

Health and social care integration NAO February 2017

[4]

Shifting the balance of care Great expectations Nuffield Trust March 2017; and

Doomed to repeat? Lessons from the history of NHS reform  Nuffield Trust October 2018

[5]

https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/research/age-uk-s-personalised-integrated-care-programme-evaluation-of-impact-on-hospital-activity

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Chipping Barnet CLP notes that access to contraception is a fundamental human right underpinning equality, impacting on the health, structure and prosperity of both society and families. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act disadvantaged women, separating much of the funding for contraceptive care from the NHS by moving the responsibility for commissioning into Local Authorities, with NHS providers competing for contracts. As a result, the commissioning of contraception is now separate from the commissioning of other aspects of women’s health, including abortion. From both a woman’s and a clinical perspective, this is illogical. Compounding this, the impact of austerity on Local Authorities has led to a reduction in services, reduced access and to a postcode lottery for contraception in England.

Chipping Barnet CLP believes that contraceptive services need to be fully funded and accessible in all areas of the UK, with co-operation replacing competition. It welcomes the commitment of the Shadow Health Department to abolish competitive tendering for these essential services, and to work with clinicians to establish centres of excellence alongside regular accessible clinics to which women have free and easy access to confidential care.

Chipping Barnet CLP calls on the Labour Party to resolve to deliver fully funded contraceptive services in all areas of the UK, setting up a working group whilst still in opposition, composed of experienced clinicians and commissioners, to write a blueprint for delivery which will be implemented within the first year of the Labour Government.

Published by Jean Hardiman Smith with the permission of Sarah Pillai ( Chipping Barnet CLP )

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Is this the knife poised to finally kill the NHS and the post 1945 social settlement?

Throughout the 80s under Thatcher, but particularly since the Health and Social Care Act (2012), contract after contract for health provision has gone to the for profit private sector. Sometimes the NHS has won contracts, sometimes the privateer, but overall during this last 6 years, our taxes / resources have been drained from public (NHS) to private providers. Stresses on the NHS have been exacerbated by cuts in financial support and staffing, increased demands and by immigrant doctors, nurses and other staff being unwelcome here following the Brexit vote, and it’s liberating a nasty racism. Remaining staff have been exemplary in trying to cope with these demoralising and exhausting situations, but burn-out is now common, staff are sick with stress, continuing to leave or just hanging on for their retirement. Working life for everyone is just not as good as it used to be. Most Trusts in England are now in deficit. Local Authority Social Care is almost non-existent now, again as the result of Thatcher’s immediate and savage cuts in the 80s, and the situation is worsened as local authority funding from central government has been slashed since 2010, and will disappear entirely by 2020. Yet somehow, these combined deficits are all supposed to transform the red to the black by combining health and social care. The latest vehicle in the alphabet soup of acronyms to assist this introduction is Integrated Care Organisations (ICOs) which come with a small money sweetener. However, this money is temporary; almost certainly a one-off as we know this government does not support the public sector and wants it demolished. As Oliver Letwin, the right wing Tory MP said the NHS will have gone by the next election if we win it.

So how is this to happen? Since the Health and Social Care Act, Section 75 has REQUIRED commissioners to put out to tender everything that couldn’t be provided by the NHS, so hospital services like cleaning, diagnostics, catering etc… have gone already. Now, under the proposed ICOs, Section 75 regulations create rights for commercial providers to promote their interests by rules written by US corporations; these enable any private provider which FAILS to get a contract to compensation by the government if that service returns to the public sector. We have already a foretaste of this, as Virgin claimed and received compensation when it failed to get an NHS contract in Surrey (? Can anyone provide me with the specifics?)   In the past, the Labour Party, the Royal College of GPs and the BMA have demanded that these regulations be scrapped, since clearly the government could not afford to compensate privateers for every contract which had not been accepted – in fact, it would be a great fail-safe money-spinner to submit silly tenders with guaranteed compensation for no service costs at all, especially if those tenders are for 15 years, as is now commonplace! Do I recognise similarities to PFI? ICOs also require to be paid in full for a year BEFORE they actually provide any service, and that money is fixed irrespective of the number or complexity of the procedures they undertake. It looks very much like a ‘race to the bottom’, safeguarding profits by providing the least and cheapest they can.   Is this another echo of PFI? Originally, the commissioners were assured they would not have to use competition in health services, but this seems to have been forgotten and presumably disappears if Section 75 is implemented. When a public contract has been lost to privateers, the service, personnel, equipment and buildings cannot be mothballed, everything is dismantled, and that’s forever. We have so much evidence that privateers ‘cherry pick’ the services which are predictable, easy, most profitable leaving the complex and difficult to the NHS, and if problems arise at some stage in the private service, patients are immediately transferred to the NHS where comprehensive teams of specialist staff, not available in the private hospital, can meet all emergencies IF there’s a spare bed.

There is no evidence that private services provide a better quality service, in fact, they are not as accountable, nor are they as monitored as is the NHS. Competition / marketisation has led to greater inequalities, increased inefficiency, higher costs and greater public dissatisfaction according to Robert Evans, the Prof of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

Judith Varley 19.10.18

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Surveys of members of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the British HIV Association (BHIVA) provide new evidence of pressure on over stretched sexual health services and a sector at ‘breaking point’

 

Access to sexual health and HIV services has been dramatically reduced as a result of changes to the funding and organisation of sexual health services since 2013, according to the medical professionals providing care. Over half (54%) of respondents to a survey of members of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) reported decreases in the overall level of service access to patients over the past year, with a further 16 per cent saying that access had significantly decreased. In a parallel survey of members of the British HIV Association (BHIVA), three quarters (76%) of respondents said that care delivered to patients in their HIV service had worsened.

With Public Health England (PHE) data showing a 13 per cent increase in attendance of sexual health services between 2013 and 2017 (PHE, June 2018,) it is not surprising that nearly 80 per cent of BASHH respondents (79%) said that they had seen an increased demand for services in the past 12 months. Budgetary pressure means that this demand cannot always be met: more patients are now either turned away or redirected to other parts of the health system.  Six in ten (63%) per cent of BASHH respondents said that they had to turn away patients each week, with 19 per cent saying that they were having to turn away more than 50 patients on a weekly basis. While most were offered the next available appointment, 13 per cent said that patients were referred to another sexual health provider and four per cent that they were redirected to primary care. Clinicians responding to the survey report that many of the patients who are being turned away have symptoms of potential infection.

 

Reduction in prevention, cytology and mental health services

Both surveys revealed significant reductions in services such as the delivery of HIV prevention activities, outreach to vulnerable populations, cervical cytology and psychosexual health services. Three quarters of BHIVA members (75%) said that there had been an impact on access to HIV prevention advice and condoms, with 63 per cent saying access had been reduced; 44 per cent of BASHH members said that HIV prevention services had decreased. Almost half (47%) of BASHH members reported reductions in the provision of cervical cytology functions, reflected by BHIVA members, who also said that cervical screening had been halved (reduced access reported by 49.5%).  This is of particular concern in the context of a fall in national cervical screening coverage and the higher risk of HPV related cancer in women with HIV.

More than 40 per cent (42%) of BASHH respondents reported reduced provision of psychosexual health care, mirrored by a similar number (41%) of BHIVA members, who said that access to psychology input for HIV related mental health problems had been reduced. This is despite the higher risk of mental health issues the HIV population faces. Nearly half of BASHH members (47%) also said that care for vulnerable populations had reduced.

 

STI screening and HIV testing

More than 40 per cent (41%) of BHIVA members said that access to sexual health screening had been reduced, despite HIV positive people being at greater overall risk of sexually transmitted infections.  BASHH members gave a mixed response, with 29 per cent of respondents reporting reductions in STI testing in the past year and 27 per cent increased testing.  The BASHH response regarding HIV testing was similarly mixed, with 21 per cent saying there was a decrease and 26 per cent an increase.

The BHIVA survey showed that it is becoming more difficult for people to test for HIV, with 35 per cent of respondents reporting that there is now reduced access to testing in their own location.  Although 58 per cent of services offered outreach testing, with a quarter of respondents (26%) saying that it was offered locally in another service, more than half (52%) said access to testing in outreach settings was also reduced.  Almost half (47%) of BASHH respondents reported increases in access to online testing in the last 12 months, but it is not yet available in all locations. Although some respondents were optimistic about its role in helping to manage the growing demand for services, others expressed concerns about poor implementation, and suggested it was taking the focus away from face-to-face services.

Funding cuts have also drastically reduced the output of third sector organisations, such as charities and community groups, who have traditionally helped to plug gaps in services with HIV testing, advice and peer support. Nearly 40 per cent of BHIVA respondents said that peer support was no longer offered by their service, with 28 per cent of those that still do saying access to it had been reduced. 70 per cent said that overall the remaining third sector support had worsened, with services stripped back to basics or simply closed down completely.

 

PrEP availability and reproductive health

The roll-out of the PrEP programme through the IMPACT trial has led to increased availability.   Over 70 per cent (71%) of BHIVA respondents said that PrEP is now either available from their service or offered locally by another service (17%) and over 70 per cent (74%) of BASHH respondents reported increased delivery. However, provision remains mixed with 28 per cent of BHIVA respondents saying access is improving, 25 per cent saying it had been reduced, and 11 per cent saying PrEP was not currently on offer locally.

At the same time almost a third (32%) of BASHH respondents reported decreased provision of reproductive health and contraception and a similar percentage (34%) of BHIVA respondents also reported reduced access to these services.

 

Impact of separation of HIV and GUM on staff and services

Changes since 2013 have in many areas led to previously fully integrated clinics that were able to provide a range of services from a single location now being divided between differently funded suppliers.  Patients, particularly people living with HIV, may not be willing or able to travel elsewhere and staff may not be able to access records from other services.

Funding cuts have led to staff not being replaced with a knock-on effect to those remaining and to the level of service they can offer. For example, the loss of Health Advisers and nursing staff can limit support for patients.  More than a quarter (27%) of BHIVA respondents reported that access to partner notification has been affected, yet this is a key method of increasing testing of people at a higher risk of HIV transmission.  Although the majority of services (64%) still maintain counselling for the newly diagnosed, close to 30 per cent said that access is reduced.

Staff morale has been affected, with more than 80 per cent (81%) of BASHH survey respondents saying that staff morale had decreased in the last year, with almost half (49%) reporting it had greatly decreased.  Respondents to both surveys cited the damaging impact sustained budget cuts were having on staff, as well as the pressures and stresses experienced by retendering, restructuring and the loss of experienced colleagues. Some describe the situation as being “at breaking point” and nearly all are worried about the future:  more than 90 per cent (92%) of BASHH respondents said that they were worried, or extremely worried, about the future delivery of sexual health care in England.

 

Commented BASHH President, Dr Olwen Williams: “Providing high-quality free and open-access care for all those that need it has been the bedrock of sexual health in this country for over a century. Whilst we are doing our utmost to maintain standards in the face of record demand and dramatic increases in infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhoea in recent years, these surveys clearly show that continued cuts to funding are taking their toll. Current levels of sexual health funding are quite simply not sustainable and the pressures they are generating are having a seriously detrimental impact on the morale and wellbeing of staff. Without increased support to match the huge growth in demand, the consequences will likely be disastrous for individuals and our public health as a whole.”

Added BHIVA Chair, Professor Chloe Orkin:“Despite the stated ambition of policy makers to reduce health inequalities this will not be possible without robustly funded, sustainable services. Our survey results provide clear evidence that we need to upgrade, not reduce, services if we are to support and protect vulnerable populations. We have made huge strides in the control of HIV, so it is particularly worrying to see that important aspects of HIV care, such as access to prevention services, testing and mental health support, have been reduced. Public Health England (PHE) figures show a 17 per cent fall in new diagnoses, which it attributes to large increases in HIV testing (PHE, September 2018.) It therefore makes no sense to make it more difficult for people to test, as shown by the reduced access to testing in clinics and outreach locations our members report.”

ENDS

Editor’s notes:

  1. Survey responses: The BASHH and BHIVA surveys were both conducted in August and September 2018. BASHH received 291 responses in total, of which 264 respondents were based in England. This press release summarises the responses provided by those members based in England.  BHIVA received 98 responses to the survey, 97 of which were from respondents based in England, which are summarised in this press release.
  2. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH)is the lead professional representative body for those managing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV in the UK. It has a prime role in education and training, in determining, monitoring and maintaining standards of governance in sexual health and HIV care. BASHH also works to further the advancement of public health in relation to STIs, HIV and other sexual health problems and acts as a champion in promoting good sexual health and providing education to the public.
  3. The British HIV Association (BHIVA)is the leading UK association representing professionals in HIV care. Since 1995, it has been committed to providing excellent care for people living with and affected by HIV. BHIVA is a national advisory body on all aspects of HIV care and provides a national platform for HIV care issues. Its representatives contribute to international, national and local committees dealing with HIV care. It promotes undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing medical education within HIV care.

For further information, please contact either: Simon Whalley, BASHH on 07506 723 324 or simon.whalley@mandfhealth.com or Jo Josh, BHIVA, on 07787 530 922 or jo@commsbiz.com.

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Can I appeal to everyone, individuals and organisations, to get solidly behind the judicial review as loudly and forcefully as possible.

I’d like to see all of us highlighting and publicising the judicial review in our various communications and campaigns. We are trying in Wirral.

If the review succeeds entire awful council/CCG edifices of pooling and dissembling come tumbling.

If the review doesn’t raise the required £18k we’re all doomed no matter how vocal our local and national campaigns!

Come on! The price of a few glasses of wine/beer/flat white.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice4nhs-stage5-courtofappeal/

Cheers

Kevin Donovan

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For everyone who couldn’t make the Conference, here is Jessica’s speech to our Fringe meeting on the future of Women’s health that I referred to earlier in a members email.

Jean Hardiman Smith

 

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. My name is Jessica Ormerod. I run a research and information organisation called Public Matters with my lovely friend and colleague Deborah Harrington.
Although we write about all aspects of the NHS and other public services, I have a particular interest in maternity. I have been writing about maternity issues for seven years since I was the chair of the maternity services liaison committee for Lewisham Hospital which coincided with our fight to save our maternity services. We won that fight but we have by no means won the war because as you know maternity services up and down the country are being closed and downgraded.
But before anything else I want to paint the picture of what is happening to the NHS as a whole. Because every closed maternity ward, service or reduction in staff is the direct result of changes to the NHS that have been happening since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. These changes are having a devastating impact on access to care. It is no exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the reversal of 70 years of universal, comprehensive and equitable care.
The 2012 Health and Social Care Act put into place all the major elements for a step change in the privatisation of the NHS.

A QUANGO called NHS England was formed as the Commissioner-in-Chief of the service, with over 200 subordinate local commissioning units. These commissioning units broke with the tradition of planning services, replacing it with buying in from public, private and voluntary sector providers. Areas of work are subdivided into contractable units and NHS public providers are obliged to compete. The loss of a contract means loss of income, which has a knock-on effect on the viability of the public sector, which is left with high cost acute care and a reduced income.

In 2014 a new CEO was appointed to run the NHS in England. He created a new plan for the NHS, the Five Year Forward View and this was greeted by the establishment as a welcome antidote to what was seen as the fragmented mess left by the 2012 Act (this was only a mere 18 months on from it being enacted). But it’s important to recognize that far from being an accident, the Act achieved the fragmentation necessary for privatisation to be embedded at an organisational level, including many major health industry players taking key roles in the commissioning and policy-making process.

At the heart of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View is the idea that the NHS in England will never again be funded to a level that maintains its services in the way they are run now. It puts together a series of proposals for change which are not just cuts but are about a fundamental reshaping of how services are provided. Expensive specialist and emergency care are relocated to centralised hubs and more care is to be delivered in the community via partnerships with local authorities. There is an aspiration for fewer emergency admissions with an improvement to overall health which it argues will lead to less dependency on NHS services.

We could say the scope of this aspiration is far reaching or we could say it is pie in the sky. It not only assumes the NHS can cope with a growing population without corresponding growth in services but that it will do so with a reduced service with much of the change becoming the responsibility of local authorities.

The process of transforming the NHS in England, is based on close co-operation between successive politicians and Department of Health managers over many years with the US Health Maintenance Organisation or Accountable Care Organization principles of managed care. This process is continuing without any checks and balances of substance within the formal organisational structures of government. Politicians go to great lengths to deny both privatisation and US influence on the current changes.

There is, however, a groundswell of resistance to the damage being done to the NHS and there is a lot of knowledge surrounding individual service contractions and closures, but little in the public domain about the overall programme of change. And that is what I am here to talk about today.

The National Maternity Review, aka Better Births – A Five Year Forward View for Maternity Care, is one of the Five Year Forward View’s New Models of Care. It emphasises community care delivered through local hubs with a theoretical reduced demand on hospital services. It recommends an increase in independent sector providers and introduces Personal Care Maternity Budgets. Personal Care Budgets commoditise and monetise the system. They add layers of unnecessary complication, increase expense, fragment accountability and lead to an accounting nightmare.
44 Local Maternity Systems have been established. The systems have been introduced without consultation, peer review, pilot studies or effective oversight from public health or parliamentary scrutiny. They are small-scale Integrated Care Systems. Unlike the Integrated Care Organisations which are now under consultation, they have been put into place with very little fanfare or institutional opposition.
As with all the changes to the NHS currently taking place, there is a real problem that rhetoric about better care closer to home is not matched by real resources or access to physical structures like hospitals. NHS England consistently refers to services being more important than organisations but fail to fill in the blanks about how this works. They also insist that travelling in order to receive excellent care is not a concern to patients. There is no acknowledgment that time, expense and severity of health condition all very much effect the distance people are able to travel regardless of the excellence of the service at the end of the journey.
In the case of maternity, these questions of distance and the emphasis on community care run two different risks. The first being the potential for increase of emergencies outside hospital setting. The second is that mothers might be taken in to hospital for assisted birth or caesarean in order to pre-empt risk arising.
But what makes maternity different from other services?
Most people use health services most at the beginning and end of their lives. Pregnant women are the exception to this. During pregnancy women come into more contact with the NHS than they probably have ever done in their lives. This is particularly the case if they have a complicated pregnancy or birth. Healthy women can become profoundly unwell during pregnancy and they can be vulnerable to life-threatening complications during birth. That’s why it is so important that women have all levels of care within easy access.
Until now maternity services have been provided in the most part by the NHS. Women have always been free to employ a private midwife. But the NHS has a duty to provide a midwife at every birth even if a private midwife is also in attendance.
Maternity services are woven through the traditional structure of the NHS. Women see their midwife at home or at their local GP. They receive a minimum of two scans to check the baby’s progress and health at the local hospital. If they have a pre-existing condition or they develop a pregnancy-related illness then their specialist will work alongside the maternity team to ensure that the woman and baby are safe and as healthy as possible throughout the pregnancy.
Currently women can give birth at home, in a ‘stand-alone’ facility run by midwives, ‘co-located midwifery unit’ – that’s a midwife-run facility on hospital grounds, or in an obstetric unit which includes doctors and surgical theatre. Obstetric units can only be sited in hospitals with A&E because they require acute services which is blood, air and surgeons. A woman can become dangerously ill very quickly during birth so timely access to acute care is essential.
Put this into the context that since 2010 maternity services have been starved of funds and there has been a staff recruitment and retention crisis. Many maternity units have already been downgraded or closed, hundreds of GP practices have also closed so women already travel further to receive care. This means it costs more and takes more time to see a midwife, GP or hospital doctor. It also means longer emergency transfer times. The risk is this will only get worse once the STPs restructuring of the NHS is complete.
Who is driving the changes to maternity?
Surprise, surprise, Better Births panel includes private health providers and those private companies are working with government to re-write policy.
Although most current providers are NHS hospitals, private providers are now being strongly encouraged. Local Maternity Systems set their own payment systems. This means that they can choose whether they pay via their geographical population or they can pay per activity or service. However, they do not follow established budget areas; they do not share boundaries with CCGs or Local Authorities even though they rely on budgets from both. Across the country there is now a mish-mash of payment systems. The risk is that women will fall through the gaps.
NHS Trusts have been ‘incentivised’ to adopt Better Births by offering a chance to win ‘pioneer funding’ to speed up the transition to the New Models of Care. In November 2016, Seven ‘early adopter’ sites started to implement the recommendations – I don’t need tell you about this because you’re part of it! The sites were told to be bold and radical. Another incentive is ‘the maternity challenge fund’ which instructs successful trusts ‘to explore innovative ways to use women’s and their partners’ feedback to improve maternity services’. A pioneer site is not the same as a pilot test site.
LMSs are encouraged to work alongside private providers in order to offer women a wider choice. As most women have previously been cared for by the NHS this simply means opening the door to the private sector. In a climate of serious staff shortages, it is possible that some midwives may see the benefit of setting up an independent midwifery practice rather than staying in the NHS. Despite protestations to the contrary, this does actually reduce the ‘NHS offer’ and opens an income stream for public money to be handed over to the private sector.
Better Births tells us it is working on a new accreditation scheme for maternity providers. But in a publicly provided NHS service, this is unnecessary because the NHS trains staff to a professional standard.
Private providers are required to have a contract with the NHS in order to receive payment via a Personal Care Budget. It is claimed that the budgets (which are described as ‘notional’) will demonstrate to CCGs the kinds of choices women make during pregnancy, birth and postnatally. This will apparently encourage CCGs to respond to women by increasing their offer. The claim is that this will also empower women. But it is decidedly unclear about how this can be achieved. The guidance talks about using Personal Care Budgets for birth pools, place of birth settings or breastfeeding support but all of this should be available to every woman regardless of a personal care budget. In fact, all of these used to be available to women as part of the normal care given by the NHS.
Moreover, it precludes the notion that women become ill in pregnancy. No one chooses to get gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, HELLP or any other life-threatening condition. What happens when your health needs change but you’ve used up your £3000 on hypno-birthing? There should be real concern about the potential lack of access to obstetric care when women have serious complications of pregnancy. Or to return to the issue of financial balance, if £3000 is a notional budget for a normal birth which can be used up in a number of ways then the acute hospital will potentially have to pick up the cost of the emergency care without a matching budget.
What does this all mean?
Scale and pace have taken precedence over caution and evidence. Academic research will take years to catch up to establish the public health consequences of this new policy.
This is a top-down reorganisation of a national service with little to no consultation, pilot schemes, peer review, oversight or risk assessment. A Health Select Committee inquiry into the maternity transformation plan was not completed because of the 2017 election. It has not been re-opened.
The Vice-Chair of the maternity transformation programme finishes his report with the following advice to LMSs: Be Bold! Don’t wait for instruction!
Clearly long gone are the years of epidemiological study, of public health planning, of consultation with experts.
Better Births is based on consumer choice issues around personalised maternity care. There is a serious lack of evidence that this restructuring will give women the vital services they need. There are fewer services, obstetric departments are being stretched even further and technology is replacing face-to-face clinical care.

On the other hand, it embeds private care and fee-for-service. And, most importantly of all this is not how a national public service works.

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Privatisation has been the economic policy of successive governments since the 1970s. All the major infrastructure, utilities and manufacturing industries which had been brought into public ownership in the immediate post-war period have been sold off, as single share offers, wholesale private transfers, or partial staged transfers. Privatisation has been developed through the remaining public services, with local authorities increasingly turning into commissioning hubs rather than direct employers, education transferring its assets and management to the private sector through the Academy programme and courts, prisons and more being owned and run by the private sector. 

That privatisation is government policy is not in question. The question is how far that has affected the NHS.  

Privatisation of the NHS began as far back as 1983 when the cleaning services started to be put out to tender. That has had fairly disastrous consequences with the spread of ‘superbugs’ being attributable to the cleaners no longer forming part of integrated core teams on wards.

Other privatisations, including IT services, facilities management, out-of-hours GP services and the 111 service, have had patchy results; some have been a waste of money, some have failed to show any benefit over public provision, some, like the cleaning services, have been cheaper but a lower standard. Interestingly these privatisations are not discussed or presented as ‘privatisation of the NHS’, or part-privatisation, although they clearly are.

The NHS is the sum of all the parts that make it function, not just its clinical services. This intellectual sleight of hand of naming private-sector takeover of asset ownership and management, ancillary and backroom services as normal business practice or ‘just outsourcing’ rather than service privatisation has allowed a significant part of the NHS to be privatised without being acknowledged as such.  

The House of Commons Library briefing on privatisation defines the need for a competition regulator as one of the essential features of the move from public to private provision. Regulators have been brought in over the last 20 years via various bodies up to the current position of the CQC and NHS Improvement, reflecting the need for market regulation. 

The Health & Social Care Act (2012)

The Health and Social Care Act (2012) continued the process of privatisation. It has become commonplace to describe the Act as a mistake. But given that privatisation is the dominant economic policy, the Act is not a mistake, it is merely a continuation of that policy.  

Privatisation is embedded in the Act in several ways. It removes the NHS in England to arm’s length from government. The relationship between the state and the service changes with the responsibility of provision lying outside the government department. The government’s remit alters significantly from being responsible for provision and planning to providing a Mandate and a funding stream to NHS England and authorising the NHS ‘kite-mark’ through NHS Identity.  

NHS Identity’s website gives advice and regulations about using the brand to the NHS family, which includes public, private and voluntary sector partners. 

The Act also created the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Section 75 3(a) of the Act imposes requirements relating to competitive tendering for the provision of services. 

The interpretation of this provision is a source of contention with the government arguing that the clause gives CCGs choice about tendering out services and the CCGs feeling that they are open to legal challenge if they do not tender. The CCGs and Section 75 are the engine that powers the privatisation of clinical services. The constituent members of the CCGs – GPs – do not have the collective skills to carry out the complex procurement process of putting services out to tender. They use Commissioning Support Units such as Optum, the UK subsidiary of United Health of America, to perform this function. 

The CCGs are also not bound to supply the same range of services nationally. They have some core clinical responsibilities but can put restrictions on others according to their financial needs. This can lead to situations where hospitals request patients to check with their commissioner to ensure they will cover payment before they start treatment, otherwise they have self-pay and insurance options available. In all but name this makes the CCGs act as local insurance groups to their registered patients, rather than service providers with common service standards set at national level. 

Trusts and Foundation Trusts are also empowered by the Act to increase the amount of private patient income they can earn. The Act specifies that they must earn the majority of their income from NHS funding. But that is interpreted as meaning that up to 49% can be from other sources. This can include rent from retail spaces and car parks as well as private patients.  

The Five Year Forward View

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, produced a Five Year Forward View (5YFV) for the NHS in England in October 2014. This is largely presented by the media, politicians of all stripes and think tanks, such as The King’s Fund, as a way of integrating services to end the fragmentation caused by the 2012 Act and to bring an end to the split between commissioners and provider organisations. In 2013, immediately after the implementation of the Act, The Better Care Fund was rolled out as a series of local programmes under different names; ‘Better Together’, ‘Fit for the Future’, etc… Its stated intention is to shift the focus from acute hospital settings into local authority based social and community care.

The 5YFV started with a series of Vanguard testbeds and will end with Integrated Care Systems and possibly Accountable (or Integrated) Care Organisations.  The stated intention of the 5YFV is to shift the focus from acute hospital settings into local authority based social and community care. In other words, even though they have different names, the two programmes have exactly the same aim.

This illustrates that the HSCA 2012 was not a mistake but is in fact a continuation of policy. That is why the findings of Michael Mansfield’s 2015 independent inquiry into Shaping a Healthier Future in NW London is still relevant. It highlights how this programme is moving services away from those areas most in need of them towards high-density, more profitable areas.

The reality of the 5YFV is that it is a re-shaping of the NHS to fit with a predicted permanent reduction in funding levels. It is based on a reduction of the total number of fully functioning blue-light A&Es from the 144 A&Es in England in 2013 reduced to somewhere between 40-70. These will be large major trauma centres. There will be no more than two for each of the 44 Sustainability and Transformation areas (STPs) which were announced in December 2015 as part of the implementation of the 5YFV. Some STPs will only have one. This is the case in Northumberland, an early adopter of the system. 

Other hospitals are having their A&Es downgraded and services transferred to the trauma centres along with their income. When campaigners are fighting across the country to save their local A&Es they are really fighting against the 5YFV. Acute and emergency care is being separated from elective (planned) care. Planned care is more attractive to the private sector as it is low risk and high income. It is one of the areas of clinical care included in the ‘7.9%’ of privatisation quoted in the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s oral evidence session. 

The 5YFV also envisages using the sale of property as a form of pump-priming of the changes. The Naylor Review (part of the 5YFV process) goes further in working on the transfer of services out of owned properties into rented accommodation, built and managed by the private sector. 

The 2012 Act also created NHS Property Services Ltd, the ‘PropCo’, which took ownership of all the properties previously in the stewardship of the Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts. The PropCo is a private company, currently wholly owned by the Department of Health & Social Care. It also charges commercial rents. 

The 5YFV encourages the separation of midwives from the hospitals to form their own companies to provide midwifery in the community. It contains plans for the widespread use of vouchers for maternity and personal health budgets for the disabled and those with other long-term health needs. These vouchers and budgets can be spent in the private or public sector. 

Privatisation: an economic policy

Analysing the overall effect of privatisation in the NHS will take time. Whilst there is little evidence of an increase in health insurance schemes, there is evidence that more people are turning to self-pay options to avoid waiting times. For a cultural change to happen people have to accept the principle that there will be things outside the ‘NHS menu’ that they will have to pay for – that cultural change hasn’t happened yet.

Descriptions of how little impact the private sector has currently had on the NHS avoids the issue of how little unmet need is being created by the reconfigurations. It is in the unmet need that the principles of universal and comprehensive care are being lost.

The report from the Health and Social Care Select Committee on Integrated Care is absolutely explicit about the need to retain ‘choice’ of providers and to avoid the ‘danger of creating airless rooms in which you simply have one provider who is there for a huge amount of time’.

This is the economics of privatisation and it needs to be addressed at parliamentary and legislative level. The Health and Social Care Committee recommends new legislation. On the current trajectory that will mean the introduction of ACOs.

The battle to promote the principles of public service as public good still has to be fought and won if the privatisation agenda within the NHS is to be brought to a halt.

The NHS [Reinstatement] Bill will be presented under the 10 Minute Rule by Eleanor Smith MP on 11 July 2018.

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