The short answer is yes. Private companies have the stated intention to make at least 8-14% profit and the profit is footed by taxpayers – simple as that. Whatever we are paying in our taxes for the NHS, 8-14% is taken away by these companies. Profiteers are squeezing money out of the NHS.
This is not a political statement in my view. There’s been an abject failure of private institutions towards patients, regardless of whether they are private treatment centres or private finance initiative centres or PFIs as we know them. They just cream off the funds to pay dividends to their shareholders and give nothing back to the NHS.
Almost £32bn of NHS contracts have been passed on to the private sector since 2012. That covers so many things, particularly the cherry-picking of hip operations, knee operations, cataract operations – the kind of things that are safe and not complicated.
"Private hospitals are happy to do routine operations like hip replacements. But if complications arise, they send the patient right back to the NHS. They pass the cost back to us"
Also, if you take a patient from the NHS to a private hospital, the private hospital is very happy to do those hip replacements, cataract operations and so on. But if any complications happen because of that operation, the first thing they do is send those patients back to the NHS. They’re taking the money out of the NHS, but when it comes to really giving it back, they just pass the cost back.
The implications of those costs are huge – it’s a double whammy. For example, if you take away cataract operations from a certain NHS hospital so that they’re not doing cataract operations anymore, that NHS hospital will then find itself with a reduced budget. And the first thing that happens is, the axe falls. Either you take that ward or that speciality branch off the NHS, or you cut the staff. And when patients develop complications after those operations, they’re back to the NHS anyway. It’s a very vicious circle.
Another problem is that even services which are privatised – for instance when Virgin or BUPA have taken over services from the NHS – they are deceiving us. They haven’t taken the NHS logo off. The logo they use still says ‘NHS’. It’s privatisation through stealth, through the back door. So many of these services have gone private, but they keep using the logo.
"Private health providers are using the NHS logo. They don’t have to tell you if they have taken over your doctor’s surgery. It’s a big deception"
People don’t know that their service may have been privatised because they are still using the NHS logo. They don’t know if they are being seen by the NHS or the private sector. The NHS has literally become just a logo rather than providing and commissioning services – they’re very gradually all being passed to the private sector.
If Virgin have taken over a GPs’ surgery, then they should say that these GPs’ surgeries are being provided by Virgin not by the NHS, but they still keep using the NHS logo.They don’t have to tell you if they have taken over your doctor’s surgery. It’s a big deception.
And at the end of the day, it’s all still being paid through by central taxation. A lot of people, as long as they don’t have to pay, they don’t care who provides their healthcare services. The real problem is that by doing this, the private providers have already taken 8-14% of their budget off for their own shareholders, rather than using the money for the clinical services that they provide you, or the NHS benefiting out of it.
"Private providers are investing in areas were people are already generally healthy. They will never come to inner cities and deprived areas because demand there is high and profits are hard to come by"
Their motive is to make profit and invest in counties where surgeries are used by people who are by and large very well, rather than ill people. They are starting out in the West Country (and Essex) but will never come to the inner cities, the deprived areas or the ghettos because the demand in those areas is much higher and the chances of them making a profit is much less. They will always make a commercial decision. They are not for the patients or the people. They are always going to be about business, and business means profit.
We’re not hearing enough about Virgin Care health centres and other stealth privatisation of the NHS for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, there aren’t enough good local health journalists who can analyse what’s going on. There aren’t enough people highlighting when a practice becomes a Virgin practice, and it’s hard to spot it because as I say, they’re still using the NHS logo. These people are fooling us.
The second thing is that most of the media is essentially controlled by the right wing, and they don’t have any love for the NHS. The Daily Mail is always trying to highlight what is wrong about the NHS. They will never, ever tell you what is good about it.
So many good things do happen in the NHS, but it’s on the brink of extinction.
"If Virgin have taken over a GPs’ surgery, then they should say that these GPs’ surgeries are being provided by Virgin not by the NHS, but they still keep using the NHS logo.They don’t have to tell you if they have taken over your doctor’s surgery. It’s a big deception."
Bit of a straw man this. GPs are private contractors and not salaried by the NHS. If Virgin starts running your GP's surgery, it hasn't been privatised – it's gone from being run by one private company to another.