The recent “pause” of the referral system that allows public money to be given to private health firms has exposed the increasing offensive by the private sector into our NHS.
The only complaint by MLAs wasn’t that millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is drained out of the public purse to fill the pockets of unscrupulous profiteers. Or this misuse of public money would be better spent within the NHS to provide the best healthcare available to all. No, the only complaint by Assembly politicians was that the process had stopped.
But there are no surprises here. The Assembly Executive has championed increasing private sector involvement in healthcare for many years. Approximately £66 million was handed over to private companies last year. Disgracefully, this was on top of £130 million paid out in the past three years.
The Belfast Trust alone uses over 33 different private healthcare companies paying over £40 million.
The Assembly Executive fully supports greater involvement of the private sector into the NHS, this is evident through their actions. They transfer essential public funds to their friends and supporters in the private sector while continuing to make devastating cuts in NHS jobs and services. The average health trust across Northern Ireland is running a budget deficit between £40 – 70 million due to underfunding by the Assembly. This is as demand for healthcare is growing with admissions across Northern Ireland increasing by 4.8% (28,192) from 2010. In the same period the available beds have been cut by 15.4% (1,122).
The Assembly Executive’s intentions are clear. Their systematic cuts and underfunding are designed to hand over our most precious of public services to big business, whose sole purpose is to exploit it for as much money as possible with no regard for patient care. Unless we begin to mobilise now in defence of our NHS, it will be sold from under our nose.