On the 25th October the report from the so-called “Expert Panel” on the proposed future of our health service was released. The report entitled Systems, not Structures: Remodelling Health and Social Care, if implemented, will be the most radical restructuring of the health service in Northern Ireland since the formation of the NHS.
The out workings of report is steeped in the language of the failed Transforming Your Care project with privatisation at its core. The recommendations, fully endorsed by the DUP and SF and agreed in principle by the other main political parties, supports even more direct involvement by big business into larger parts of clinical and social care. This is not a surprise given the makeup the membership of the Panel.
The Panel chaired by Professor Rafael Bengoa is the vice-chair of Horizon 2020. This is the biggest EU research and development programme with over 80 billion Euro funding who’s sole agenda is to promote a global invasion of the private sector into public services. Bengoa is also the Director of the Health Department at the DEUSTO Business School in Spain. Other Panel members include Doctor Mark Taylor, a local consultant surgeon with major interests in Kingsbridge private hospital and the Ulster Independent Clinic. Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive for Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust, who in 2015 overseen the cut of 700 jobs and the closure of 100 acute beds. Their expertise is in the privatising of public healthcare.
It was barely 24 hours after the release of the report, Health Minister O’Neill stated she would call on the private sector to deal with the waiting list crisis. This is disgraceful and utter hypocrisy by Michelle O’Neill. The waiting list crisis is a result of the Assembly Executive’s drive to cut jobs and services over many years resulting in fragmentation of healthcare provision. This is evident in the recent closure of Pine Lodge residential home in East Belfast that has been intentionally run down to make it unviable.
We deserve a modern and accessible health service that meets the needs of patients and communities. It must serviced by highly trained public sector workers with decent terms and conditions. We must fight for fully publicly-funded healthcare, resourced and integrated into every aspect of society and out of the hands of the profiteers of big business.
The out-workings of the Bengoa will not be the vehicle to achieve this.