For years, the proposed privatisation of the NHS has continued to polarise opinion throughout the UK. More specifically, those with Conservative principles have largely shown support for such a move, while individuals who follow socialist values believe that the NHS should remain a public sector service that is accessible to all.

While the debate about privatising the NHS continues unabated, however, there are suggestions in some quarters that such a process is already being undertaken by stealth. In fact, a recent investigation by The Independent has revealed the true extent of creeping NHS privatisation, which has apparently seen state patients sidelined in favour of private users.

In this post, we’ll explore the concept of NHS privatisation in further detail, and ask what impact this is likely to have.

Privatising the NHS by Stealth – The Continuation of Thatcher’s Policies

The Independent’s report managed to collate a wealth of data under the Freedom of Information law, providing a number of fascinating insights in the process. One of the most fascinating revolved around the total income that NHS England earned from private clients last year, as this has increased by nearly 33% during the last five years.

It was back in 2012 that laws were changed to enable NHS trusts to undertake more paid work, and the evidence suggests that this has already had a seminal impact on most crucial of public sector services. As a result, there is now a growing concern that the NHS is inching closer towards full privatisation with every passing year, with the majority of private income hidden from official records by complex operating arrangements.

As a result of this, it appears as though the NHS is being gradually privatised without the knowledge or consent of the electorate, with the Tories seemingly following the approach adopted by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s.

What Will be the Impact of a Privatised NHS?

Regardless of how the NHS is ultimately privatised, however, such a move would have a seismic effect in the UK. From a social perspective, there is an argument that privatised healthcare would be largely inaccessible and less efficient than the existing NHS, with the latter point having been borne out by a 2012 study in the states. This found that systems which rationed care according to government provisions incurred lower per-capita costs, with privatised services facing higher costs that are indirectly passed onto patients.

There is also an issue of continuity, as private sector firms will only ever provide healthcare services to individuals in instances where it remains profitable. If this is no longer the case in some instances, patients could be required to change healthcare providers at different stages of their treatment.

There is also the economic impact of privatising the NHS, which is probably best described as being mixed. Clearly, privatising such a large entity would enable the government to secure lucrative revenue streams through taxation, which could in turn be invested into remaining public services. However, large-scale privatisation would also exacerbate the wealth divide that already exists in the UK, with poorer citizens and those from lower socio-economic groups the most likely to miss out.

From the perspective of financial market traders and investors, the privatisation of the NHS would also create new opportunities to diversify their portfolios. Privatisation could ultimately see the future iteration of the NHS floated as a public company, for example, opening the door for stock market traders to invest their hard-earned cash.

The Last Word

Ultimately, it may be argued that the full privatisation of the NHS may never actually happen. Still, there is no doubt that this service is becoming increasingly reliant on revenues from private patients, and if this trend continues there is likely to be a time when at least non-essential treatments will be undertaken by private healthcare providers.

Even this would have a significant impact on the social and economic climate, and while there are pros and cons to such a move the fall-out would need to me adequately managed. by government officials.

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