Oldham MP warns of the dangers of a privatised NHS

Date published: 01 June 2018

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Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has used the pre-NHS experiences of Oldham woman Brenda Rustidge to highlight the danger of a privatised NHS.

Commenting on her speech in the House of Commons, which featured during an opposition day debate on the NHS privatisation and funding, Mrs Abrahams said: “We are slowly but surely seeing our NHS and care systems slide towards privatisation under this Tory government.

“In Oldham and Saddleworth, the CCG’s latest round of procurement in 2016 and 2017 shows that out of the 12 contracts up for tenure, six healthcare, six non-healthcare; six out of six of the healthcare contracts went to private companies and, again, six out of six of the non-healthcare contracts also went to private companies.

“As NHS resource allocations move towards capped, Personal Health Budgets (PHB) for the each and every registered person in England we will see them transition into an insurance-based model, with your PHB being used as your own health insurance premium.  

“In fact, health insurance companies are already developing new products in anticipation of PHBs which could become a precursor to insurance premiums.

“And, when that happens, the principles of our treasured, universal, comprehensive and free NHS will be gone forever.

“I believe passionately in the NHS. For me it is more than an organisation that plans and delivers our healthcare; it reflects the values of our society.

"We all pay into a system which we may or may not use, but we do it because we know it could be us, or our children or our parents.

"Not only is access to healthcare a fundamental human right, but this is the right thing to do.

“Before I became an MP I was a public health consultant working in and with the NHS for over 20 years and I was also Chair of Rochdale Primary Care Trust for nearly five years.

"Protecting the NHS and tackling inequalities were key drivers to me becoming an MP.”

NHS Oldham CCG have responded to Mrs Abrahams' claims, insisting they continue to provide 'high quality' services.

In a statement to the Chronicle, a spokesperson said: "In terms of the way we procure and manage health and social care in Oldham, the most significant thing for patients to be aware of is that we are moving at pace towards a much more integrated way of working.

"Joining up our commissioning functions across health and social care from 1 April this year and working together to ensure that we delivering high quality, joined-up health and care services both now and in the future will mean that we are able to help people lead healthier lives with the right support in place when they need it.

“The procurement figures quoted by Mrs Abrahams are historic, and relate to contracts awarded in 2016/17.

"Our audited accounts for 2017/18 show that this financial year, we spent a total of £221.58m on services from NHS providers and £65.99m on services from non NHS and social care providers."

Explaining why she used Brenda’s story to illustrate her point, Mrs Abrahams added: “The NHS really does seem to touch all our lives but Brenda’s story really stood out for me as her family life has been interwoven with the organisation since she was born in 1940 and it was created in 1948 by Aneurin Nye Bevan. 

“Nye famously said that there would be an NHS as long as there were folk to fight for it.

"Well, we need folk to fight and oppose what is happening to our NHS right now.”

Brenda, talking about the NHS and why she shared her story with the Oldham MP, said: “We all instinctively know how important the NHS is to us but it wasn’t until Debbie asked me about my experiences with the NHS that I really stopped to think about just how wonderful it has been for me and my family for the last four generations.

“What really worries me is that without Debbie and the Labour Party challenging the Government's privatisation of the NHS will it still be there as we know it today and be free at the point of need for my grandchildren and their children?

“Without any doubt the NHS is the most treasured of our country’s institutions and if we don’t stand up to this Government we’ll lose it.”

In a video of Brenda’s story, she starts when she is a child in the 1940s. Her family, who were poor because her father became unemployed after the war, had to hide under the window when the local doctor’s secretary came to their house for payment every Friday afternoon.

With the introduction of the NHS in 1948, Brenda’s parents slowly paid off what they owed to the doctor and could then get free health care.

The creation of the NHS and a move to a council house with a large garden on the edge of Oldham meant life ‘blossomed’ for Brenda and her family. 

Three of Brenda’s five children needed intensive care after birth, but all survived thanks to the NHS.

With four of them being boys, she would make numerous visits to A&E in the following years!

More recently, Brenda herself needed A&E treatment for an eye problem and she describes how she was attended to quickly and the problem was solved.

In the most touching part of the video Brenda talks about her husband undergoing treatment, including two major operations, for cancer and spending six weeks in intensive care and a high dependency unit.

Brenda said: “All this treatment was free on the NHS.

"Now, I think without the NHS he wouldn’t have been here.

"Thankfully he’s now fit and running about and hopefully that’s it. 

“But this was wonderful for us and we couldn’t have afforded it.

"One operation [possibly] but two? Impossible!”

The CCG spokesperson added: “Personal health budgets are agreed amounts of money which support the identified healthcare and wellbeing needs of an individual, planned and agreed between them, or their representative, and their local clinical commissioning group (CCG).

"It isn’t new money, but a different way of spending health funding to meet the needs of an individual. Personal health budgets are one way to give people with long term health conditions and disabilities more choice and control over the money spent on meeting their health and wellbeing needs.

"Personal health budgets are about people getting care that’s right for them, which is funded by the NHS and provided free at the point of contact, they are not linked to privatisation of the NHS.

"As outlined in our annual report and accounts, Oldham CCG commissions a range of services from both the NHS, the voluntary and community sector and private providers, based on the needs of the people in their area.

"The use of personal health budgets does not change this practice of choosing the right provider for the need identified. NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care are currently running a public consultation (April- June 2018) on extending the legal rights to have a personal health budget or integrated personal budget.

"To access a copy of the consultation and to submit your response, visit the consultations page on the Department of Health and Social Care’s website.

Watch Brenda Rustidge's NHS story

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