Tag Archives: BMA

“The Hidden Agenda”: The Planned Destruction Of The Welfare State?

bs_Greetings_from_the_Welfare_State The report reproduced (with kind permission) below is a short summary of the vitally important research into the origin of the current government’s campaign against disability and incapacity benefits and the involvement of Unum (formerly UnumProvident) and ATOS.  This remarkably detailed  work was carried out over the last three years by former healthcare professional and disabled veteran, Mo Stewart*. Mo has worked relentlessly and determinedly, despite her own pain and fatigue, to bring together a vast amount of damning evidence against this cruel system which has and continues to bring misery and even death to people whose only ‘crime’ is to be chronically sick or disabled. What you are about to read below is but a tiny example of far, far more material some of which can be found on her website here or by following the links she provides in her reference list at the end of the articles.

*(Mo Stewart is a former healthcare professional, a disabled female veteran and, for the last 3 years, has researched the links between the DWP, Atos Healthcare & Unum Insurance. To date, the research evidence has been quoted during welfare debates in the House of Lords, the House of Commons and in Westminster Hall. Mo routinely shares all research evidence with academics, medical and healthcare professionals, frontline national charities, selected
politicians and service users.)

THE HIDDEN AGENDA: a research summary by Mo Stewart

(The Hidden Agenda © Mo Stewart – March 2013)

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is exclusively conducted on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by the corporate giant Atos Origin IT Ltd Medical Services, better known as Atos Healthcare. This ‘non-medical assessment’ was introduced in 2008 by the Labour government, and was identified as a ‘medical examination’ to be used to identify genuine claimants for long term sickness and disability benefit. However, what was unknown at the time was the fact that the WCA was a continuation of the planned agenda of the previous Thatcher government, whose ultimate goal was the destruction of the Welfare State.(1) The WCA was promoted as a ‘fitness for work’ assessment for claimants of what was once known as Incapacity Benefit, now re-named as the Employment and Support Allowance.(ESA) In reality, in order to reduce the welfare budget, the WCA was designed to resist as many sickness benefit claims as possible regardless of confirmed and identified permanent illness or disability. By 2010 the planned DWP welfare budget reduction was deemed to be
too slow. The new Coalition Government enhanced the WCA and, following the previous Labour Government’s lead, it became much more difficult to qualify for the ESA(2) as the WCA totally disregarded diagnosis, prognosis or limited life expectancy.

Aided and abetted by the national press, using insidious press headlines to manipulate public opinion(3)(3b), the Coalition Government successfully introduced tyranny, fear and despair to the nation’s most vulnerable people, using a disability assessment model as designed in consultation with Unum [Provident] Insurance; one of the most discredited corporate insurance giants in the world.(4)(4b) At the same time, reported disability hate crimes in the United Kingdom(UK) were rising to record levels.(5) The first two years of independent research into the WCA concluded at the end of November 2011 with the
exposure of two government memorandums provided by Unum Provident Insurance.(6) Initially, the link between the UK welfare reforms and the likely move to an insurance based benefits system was identified by Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson during the welfare reform debates in the House of Lords.(7) Nine months later, the link between Atos Healthcare and Unum Insurance was exposed by Kevin Brennan MP during debate in Westminster Hall(8) and, more recently, during an emergency Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons(HOC), Michael Meacher MP identified the possible influence of Unum Insurance with the UK Government.(9)

Of course, this destruction of the welfare state could never have been so readily achieved without the unelected former Labour adviser, David Freud. He was ennobled to permit appointment initially to the Shadow Cabinet but, following the 2010 General Election, he was appointed as the Minister for Welfare Reform for the Coalition where he has excelled. Indeed, one of Lord Freud’s most recent claims was that: “Poor people should be prepared to take more risks because they have the least to lose…”(11) Clearly, this man is yet another millionaire Minister who demonstrates no concern, and no comprehension, of human need.
The ongoing DWP medical tyranny, masquerading as welfare reform, has permitted Atos Healthcare to conduct the WCA by employing the totally discredited Bio-Psychosocial(BPS) model of disability assessment that remains free from all public accountability according to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The BPS is the assessment model as used by Unum Insurance when assessing healthcare insurance claims, and it is also the assessment model enthusiastically promoted by Professor Sir Mansel Aylward. The Professor is the Director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, initially sponsored by Unum Insurance from its inception in 2003 to 2009.

However, prior to his move to the Centre, the Professor was the DWP’s Chief Medical Officer who, in 1994, was in post when Unum Insurance was invited to become corporate ‘advisers’ to the UK government.(12) Whilst the BPS model is an interesting theory, the selective use of the BPS model of disability assessment, as used by both Unum Insurance and Atos Healthcare, was exposed long ago as an invention of the insurance industry.(13)(14) By concentrating on the psychological model of disability, to the detriment of the social model, the WCA was always destined to promote unacceptable results for many thousands of ESA claimants. In one six month period alone 37,100 people had waited up to a year to have their ESA benefit reinstated following appeal, yet no-one is asking what would have happened to these genuinely sick and disabled people if they had not had the strength to pursue their claim to appeal?(10)

Indeed, a recent Panorama documentary: ‘Disabled or Faking It’,(15) demonstrated quite categorically the dangers of the WCA with seriously ill patients, diagnosed with life threatening conditions such as heart failure and end stage emphysema, being found fit for work.(15) However, with the national press still refusing to expose the identified influence of Unum Insurance with the DWP welfare reforms, the British public remain in ignorance as the government covertly convert the UK welfare state into the American healthcare system, ultimately to be funded by private insurance.(12)(13)(14) Meanwhile, Unum Insurance is happy to continue to offer new careers to former government ‘advisers’. (16) The WCA is an American imported ‘disability assessment model’ and has no medical credibility whatsoever, as confirmed by the British Medical Association(17), yet it is enthusiastically employed by the DWP and causes devastation to those least able to protest. This ‘medical assessment’ is working very well as the thousands of genuine claimants that have either died, committed suicide, been forced into poverty due to mounting debt, or who have developed a mental health problem due to anxiety are now the disregarded victims.(10)

Many had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit before being re-assessed by Atos Healthcare, using the fatally flawed WCA, only to fail to qualify for benefit following ‘assessment’. The Internet provides evidence to this government imposed suffering at a cost to the tax-payer of £110million per annum for the confidential Atos contract and an estimated £60 million pounds per annum, and rising, for the costs of the appeal tribunals. Yet, still, Members of Parliament (MP) continue with their very courteous and diplomatic debates(8)(9) as the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and, especially, their corporate partners all celebrate the ongoing planned destruction of the welfare state that appears to be unstoppable.

What is still disregarded is the fact that Professor Sir Mansel Aylward’s research activities were funded for six years by Unum Insurance.(12) Indeed, due to his significant contribution to the future reduction of the DWP welfare budget by promoting the use of a ‘non-medical’ assessment, the Professor was rewarded with a Knighthood for “services to disability assessment.” Therefore, his support for the BPS disability assessment model was presumed to be guaranteed. Yet, when confronted six months ago, the Professor actually confirmed that he now considered the BPS model to be “unsatisfactory” and that he believed it “no longer addresses the real needs of disabled people and the exclusion of disabled people from society”.(18) Of course, the question remains as to why there was no official DWP announcement following this amazing change of ‘expert’ professional opinion, as the entire national press totally disregarded the press release that was distributed last September following Sir Mansel’s unexpected statement. Perhaps the Professor was safe in the
knowledge that the press release would be ignored, and perhaps this is why he continues to travel widely, still lecturing about the virtues of the totally discredited BPS model of disability assessment? The most recent lecture was at the Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference in Birmingham, from 5th-6th March 2013,(19) where Professor Sir Mansel Aylward was listed as a keynote speaker on the subject of: The New Public Health Agenda: Its Impact on Health and Wellbeing at Work. Given the title of his speech, one can only presume that the Professor has yet to advise other professionals of his reported change of expert opinion.(18)

This is how the UK welfare state will be destroyed. There is a BPS ‘expert’ in place, and an American corporate insurance giant has influenced the UK Government to totally disregard human suffering, in favour of a reduced welfare budget, using an identified bogus ‘medical assessment’. Unum Insurance have begun their mass marketing to encourage able bodied members of the British public to invest in their ‘Income Protection Insurance’ or their ‘Back-up Plan,’ that’s only available via the workplace, and these are the healthcare insurance policies that the company has historically tried very hard to resist funding when a claim is made.(20)(21) Given that the unacceptable practice of Unum Insurance was previously exposed by MPs during a House of Commons debate in 1999(22), the question remains as to why was this highly discredited American corporate insurance giant ever permitted to influence UK welfare reforms and why the national press, en masse, refuse to expose this insurance company’s confirmed influence despite it being identified by a BBC News report in 2007?(23)

The recent exposure of a 2005 internal Unum report, that actively boasted that the company was ‘driving government thinking’ regarding the reform of Incapacity Benefit (24) leads to the much more sinister possibility that the DWP are simply administrators of these brutal welfare reforms, and that the perpetrators of the devastation caused to the victims of this UK government funded medical tyranny are, in fact, Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell was the author of the 2005 internal Unum report that was written when he was the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Unum Insurance. Michael O’Donnell is now the CMO for Atos Healthcare…..

The difficulty remains that no-one is asking the relevant questions. Perhaps MPs should be asking the Prime Minister why he’s been funded by ‘healthcare companies’ to the value of £750,000(27) since he became Prime Minister (25) or why every report produced by the President of the Appeal Tribunals, all of which identified the Atos Healthcare WCA assessments as “failing to coincide with reality”, was totally disregarded by the DWP? (12)
Until and unless more significant questions are asked in the House of Commons, victims of this government funded medical nightmare will be forced to turn to the law for help, just as in America.(26)

Until and unless the national press demonstrate that the UK really does benefit from a free press, and not a government controlled press, the most vulnerable of all British people will continue to suffer and the British public will continue to be deceived.(12)

References:
1) Margaret Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/28/margaret-thatcher-role-plan-to-dismantle-welfare-state-revealed
(2) Cuts to UK benefits: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/type/text/cuts-to-uk-benefits.html
(3) ‘Ello, John, got a new Motability motor? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2047593/Motability-schemes-starting-resemble- worst-excesses-Arthur-Daley-.html
(3b) Half a million incapacity benefit claimants are fit for work, Government’s own figures show: Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115476/A-incapacity-benefit-claimants-fit-work-Government-s-OWN-figures show. html#axzz2JqkmNFAR
(4) New York Attorney General Spitzer’s ruling: http://www.insure.com/articles/healthinsurance/unum-settlement.html
(4b) The Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America – The American Association of Justice
http://www.justice.org/docs/tenworstinsurancecompanies.pdf
(5) Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record high:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-soar-to-a-record-level-7858841.html
(6) The truth behind welfare reforms: http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20111120.html
(7) BnsTanni Gray-Thompson: House of Lords, welfare reforms
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110913-0002.htm
(8) Private Members’ Debate: Atos Healthcare: 4th Sept 2012
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120904/halltext/120904h0001.htm
(9) Backbench Business: Atos Work Capability Assessment debate: 17th Jan 2013
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130117/debtext/130117-0002.htm
(10) British people are committing suicide to escape poverty. Is this what the State wants?
http://poultonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/people-are-choosing-suicide-to-escape-poverty-is-this-the-states- final-solution.html
(11) Lord Freud’s welfare ‘lifestyle’ comments show ‘nasty party is back’, say Labour:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9698985/Lord-Freuds-welfare-lifestyle-comments-show-nasty-party-is-back-say-Labour.html
(12) Government use might of American insurance giant to destroy UK welfare safety net – update 27th Oct : http://www.whywaitforever.com/dwpatosveteransreport20121027.html
(13) An academic responds to statement by Prof Aylward:
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/09/18/dwpatosunum-scandal-an-academic-responds-with-disbelief-to-professor-aylwardsstatement- to-black-triangle-and-dpac-outside-the-ifdm2012-conference-on-11th-september-2012/
(14) A Tale of Two Models: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/jolly/A%20Tale%20of%20two%20Models%20Leeds1.pdf
(15) Panorama: Disabled or Faking It?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lldrc/Panorama_Disabled_or_Faking_It/
(16) Peter Dewis: Steppin’ Sideways from Government to Unum:
http://downwithallthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/peter-dewis-steppin-sideways-from-government-to-unum/
(17) GPs call for work capability assessment to be scrapped:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/23/gps-work-capability-assessment-scrapped
(18) Former DWP medical boss makes WCA pledge to protesters:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/09/former-dwp-medical-boss-makes-wca-pledge-to-protesters/
(19) Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference, NEC Birmingham: http://www.healthatwork2013.co.uk/
(20) “The denial on the part of Unum in the Mondolo case appears to mirror denials of other Unum disability claims historically, going back several years. To that end, the Court noted Unum’s history of biased claims administration.” (MARCH 2013)
http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/first_unum/unum-lawsuit-insurance-disability-claims-12-18506.html?utm_expid=3607522-
0&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lawyersandsettlements.com%2Flegal-news-articles%2Fcase%2Ffirst_unum%2F
(21) CBS News 60 minutes: DID INSURER CHEAT DISABLED CLIENTS:
(see below)
(22) Permanent Health Insurance debate, Westminster Hall, 21st December 2009
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo991221/halltext/91221h01.htm#91221h01_head0
(23) BBC Ten ‘o Clock News report: 6th Nov 2007 http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/UNUM_on_BBC_News_061107.wmv (BBC NEWS report – video)
(24) Unum bragged about ‘driving government thinking’ on incapacity benefit reform:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/02/unum-bragged-about-driving-government-thinking-on-incapacity-benefit-reform/
(25) MPs’ links are so unhealthy: http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/378233/MPs-links-are-so- unhealthy
(26) High Court rules Work Capability Assessment arguably unlawful:
http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2012/07/victory-in-first-stage-of-fitness-for-work-court-case/
(27) NHS reform leaves Tory backers with links to private healthcare firms set for bonanza:
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-reform-leaves-tory-backers-105302

images (1) Now watch the US video below (referenced above) and compare what is being described with what people are experiencing here in Britain at the hands of the DWP and its sidekick ATOS…chilling?

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Impending Chaos at Private Hospitals? A First Glimpse of One Possible Effect of Monitor’s Regulation’s

Jeremy-Hunt

This is a story of my recent experience of how a private hospital is coping with a sudden influx of NHS patients, due to the recent changes to healthcare in England. The personal account comes towards the end so please bear with me…

 We’re all too nauseatingly familiar by now with Jeremy Hunt’s ‘NHS is a disaster’ discourse with its characterisation of the whole service as one on the edge of collapse. According to this story A&E departments are in chaos, GP’s are lazy, hospitals are dirty, inefficient and badly managed. Waiting rooms are overflowing with people having to wait ages to be seen and nursing staff are dismissive of their needs. And the food’s terrible.

In contrast to this picture of medical Armageddon he paints a picture of private hospitals as clean, comfortable, well maintained places where patients are treated efficiently and with extraordinary care and attention; medical care is exemplary and they don’t have to wait around for ages to be seen. Oh, and the food is top quality.

images (2)  On 1st April this year, as we know, new regulations came into effect as a result of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Under this new regulatory regime NHS foundation trusts must comply with the terms of the provider licence. The licence replaces the terms of authorisation under which trusts were previously granted foundation trust status. The Act  gives Monitor concurrent powers with the Office of Fair Trading to apply competition law in the health care sector in England and the terms of the new licences require health care providers to abide by a number of stringent regulations that are designed to ensure they don’t engage in ‘anti-competitive’ behaviour.

0_0_393_http-__offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk_News_PG_89708F60-BFC9-851D-3EF48E898E5E2E69    The government sees these licence conditions as powerful incentives for improving the quality of care provided to patients. This is an important point to note since running throughout Jeremy Hunt’s discourse on the NHS is his concept of care quality and how its NOT being achieved across the NHS with the implication that its the delivery system that’s ultimately at fault, with the corresponding implication that a different service delivery system – private healthcare – would produce better results.

email-front-cover_0         When you read the licence conditions it becomes clear that the ONLY definition of ‘improving quality for patients’ that can be found within this document is ‘encouraging competition between providers’. Even when it talks of integrated care which demands different providers working together to provide a complete care package for patients, the need for these co-operating entities to maintain competition between themselves is still a licence requirement. This is clearly contradictory. The guidelines say this,

“With careful design therefore, many models for the delivery of integrated care can be implemented in a way that does not reduce competition between providers.”

And

“The licensee shall not:

a) enter into or maintain any agreement or other arrangement which has the object or which has (or would be likely to have) the effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition in the provision of health care services for the purposes of the NHS, or

b) engage in any other conduct which has (or would be likely to have) the effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition in the provision of health care services for the purposes of the NHS,”

It seems to me that it’s likely to need a hell of a lot of ‘careful design’ if different providers wanting to integrate their services by entering into co-operative contracts are going to avoid being in breach of their licence and thus at risk of the sanctions that Monitor can impose for such a breach – loss of that licence being one of them.

nhspatients       I now want to turn to another section of the licence conditions known as ‘Choice and Competition: Condition C1: The right of patients to make choices’. This is what it says,

“Choice and Competition – Condition C1: The right of patients to make choices This condition protects patients’ right to choose between providers by obliging licensees to make information available, to ensure that any information or advice provided is not misleading and to act in a fair way where patients have a choice of provider. This condition applies wherever patients have a choice under the NHS Constitution or a choice that has been conferred locally by commissioners. It also prohibits licensees from receiving or offering inducements to refer patients or commission services.

This condition prevents a licensee from entering into or maintaining agreements that have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition to the extent that it is against the interests of health care users. It also prohibits the licensee from engaging in other conduct which has (or is likely to have) the effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition to the extent that it is against the interests of health care users.”

Again it can be seen how the regulations once more conflate the interests of patients with the existence of competition between providers. In a fully public NHS you could imagine an element of competition based on quality of service and as a patient would want the ability to choose the best. However, in a climate of privatisation  competition takes on a different hue. Providers are by definition businesses making profit and patients come with money. The whole ethos changes, the whole identity of ‘patient’ changes – we become customers and the whole raison d’etre of providers is to attract our custom. The government argues that this will both push up quality AND push down cost but that’s a rather naive and simplistic view.

article-2107897-11F68D4C000005DC-425_468x249                  We all know that real quality costs money. We all equally know the tricks retailers use to attract us into their shops and tempt us to spend more and more. We know the amount of money they spend on slick advertising and fancy packaging of goods that turn out to be the same old thing. And we’ve seen how this tends to increase prices, not bring them down. When the bottom line is profit not patients then its likely patients will be exploited to achieve that profit.  And in this kind of competition it has always been the sharks and the big fish who win. 

The  Monitor regulations go on to stipulate,

“Clause 1 of the licence condition requires the licensee to notify and make information available to patients wherever a patient has a choice of provider under the NHS Constitution or a choice that has been conferred locally by a commissioner…The NHS Constitution also gives patients the right to access services within maximum waiting times, or, where this is not possible, the NHS must take all reasonable steps to offer patients a range of alternative providers.” 

Now we’re getting to the whole point of this blog.

Despite blatantly false claims from the Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt that they are pouring extra money into the NHS*, doctors have confirmed this week at their annual BMA Conference that the NHS is being cut back ‘beyond the bone’ including on the front line – something we were faithfully promised when the Health Bill first raised its ugly head would never happen. In fact, so certain were doctors of this fact that they unanimously gave Hunt a vote of no confidence.

* See (http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/smith-shapps-now-cameron-lies-to-parliament-on-nhs-stats/)

c_71_article_1433663_image_list_image_list_item_0_image-2   Derelict Ancoats Hospital  

As hospitals are starved of cash they begin to miss targets and find themselves in breach of their licence (Monitor are already investigating three NHS hospitals for this)* and risk closure. As their waiting times for treatment get longer, if they want to avoid breaches for missing targets. and in order to comply with the Condition C1 shown above. they are sending their patients to private hospitals for their procedures and paying for this from their already stretched budgets. This is a zero sum game because by paying for more and more private treatment to avoid sanctions over targets NHS hospitals will eventually drain their budgets and be sanctioned anyway for going over budget – Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is currently being investigated by Monitor for doing just that.

*Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. Source: Monitor.

beaumont  Beaumont BMI Hospital

Yesterday I saw for myself the way the new Monitor regulations are beginning to bite in my own NHS Foundation Trust. My partner, Neil, was on the waiting list for a minor surgical procedure and last week he received an unexpected letter from a nearby private hospital, The Beaumont BMI Hospital in Bolton. It informed him that he had an appointment with them for his surgical procedure at 12 pm on 25th June. It also reassured him that the treatment would be paid for by the Royal Bolton NHS Foundation Trust Hospital (RBH), and a family member would need to accompany him to take him home after the procedure.

So  yesterday we duly arrived in time for his appointment. The hospital is an impressive old building set in its own large grounds and from the outside looks well maintained. The waiting room and reception area was small and comfortable, but not ostentatiously furnished. We sat down to wait for Neil to be called in for his appointment….And waited…and waited…

I read all four of the glossy magazines, Neil read the only newspaper provided, the Daily Mail, from cover to cover. During this time several more patients had turned up. I overheard one of them say loudly to the receptionist she couldn’t understand why RBH had sent her there. It transpired that the rapidly growing number of people filling up the small waiting area  were all NHS patients. The receptionist was beginning to look flustered.

download (1)      After we’d been been waiting for around 45 minutes an orderly approached the receptionist and began reading names from a list and telling her which rooms were being allocated to which patient. We heard him mention that Neil was down for room 19. He disappeared and returned ten minutes later and spoke to the receptionist again. This time he had Neil down for room 30. Meanwhile in the waiting area people were getting restless. A bored child was running around and this was obviously not making the receptionist happy. The orderly returned looking harassed and informed the receptionist of yet more room changes. This time Neil was allocated room 32 and finally we were asked to go with him up to the treatment floor.

Because I have difficulty with stairs due to a disability we asked to use the lift. He said this was fine but warned us the lift ‘played up, sometimes’ and needed some maintenance that never seemed to happen. Thankfully, it worked OK that time. We arrived at room 32 and the orderly opened the door to find it was still occupied by a patient. He apologised and said he’d find a nurse and see which room he should us in.

images (4)        A nurse came along just then and the embarrassed orderly stopped her and asked where he should put us. Without even glancing at us she told him  a tad tetchily that she had no idea and hurried off. The poor orderly apologised again and began opening the doors to other rooms until he found one empty. He went in search of someone else to check if he could put us in there and eventually it was sorted out.

By this time the orderly, who was actually a decent man trying to do his best for us, was visibly fed up and confided that they were finding it hard to cope with the influx of NHS work. As he explained the facilities in the room he also made a point of saying “I shouldn’t tell you this but be aware if you use the phone in here they put a massive charge on it and bill you for it when you leave”, the implication being that his employers were not averse to exploiting their customers.

It was now 1.15 pm. Last time Neil had this procedure done at RBH it was done within half an hour of his appointment time. He was looking a bit mithered because he always gets nervous on these occasions and all the waiting was obviously getting to him.

A few minutes later a woman from the kitchen came in with a menu. Neil apparently wouldn’t be discharged until he’d had something to eat and drink so he had to choose something from the menu. This was included in the treatment cost. The menu choice wasn’t spectacular but comparable to that I remember from a stay in the RBH a few years ago. Neil ordered a sandwich and coffee.

download (2)                   Two nurses came to do the paperwork and record Neil’s blood pressure etc. He asked them how long he’d be waiting for the procedure. They couldn’t tell him because the consultant doing the procedure hadn’t arrived at the hospital yet. He was still over at RBH finishing his list there. In the end it was 3.30 pm before Neil finally had his procedure. When I returned to pick him up he was eating his sandwich. It was a bog standard ham sandwich with the crusts cut off and with a few bits of salad leaves surrounding it. The only difference to an NHS ham sandwich was it was served on a posh plate. I also noticed that the cotton gown he was wearing was exactly the same as those used in the NHS everywhere. Ah well, there goes another myth exploded!

images  Royal Bolton NHS Hospital

The consultant came to talk to us afterwards to explain his findings and answer any questions. During the course of the conversation the consultant expressed his concerns about the NHS reforms saying that already doctors were finding the fragmented system was causing them huge problems with the continuity of patients’ records. He wants to see Neil again in six weeks and said he would insist this happened at RBH where he was able to conduct his clinic more efficiently.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions from this story. Its clear that some potentially disruptive changes are already afoot and private hospitals like the Beaumont are possibly going to see an increase in NHS patients coming through their doors. It was obvious even from this short glimpse that good as these hospitals may be, they are not equipped for large numbers of patients. This is one reason why they have been able to maintain standards. One potential positive outcome from this, given what I witnessed, may be that the Secretary of State will be forced to admit that the public sector model is not at the heart of our problems, since the private sector also struggles to cope with a sudden high demand.

A properly staffed  and well integrated NHS with real investment behind it and years of collective experience CAN give us the quality healthcare everyone in this country deserves. I’m more convinced of that now than I’ve ever been.