10:17 Thursday 27th September 2012
Mid Morning Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
RONNIE BARBOUR: Looking for your experiences and thoughts about the NHS this morning, six months on from the Health and Social Care Bill, paving the way for the biggest changes since it was formed in 1948. Cambridgeshire has led the way in giving GPs and private companies a bigger role in our treatment. On line, Martin Booth works at Addenbrookes Hospital, and is a member of Unison. Martin welcome to the programme.
MARTIN BOOTH: Good morning.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Changes are inevitable in all walks of life, but this is quite a massive one. Is your union going to endorse it, embrace it?
MARTIN BOOTH: Well, Unison and other unions and campaign groups like Keep Our NHS Public warned before the Bill came in that it would lead to a huge privatisation of health services, which we’re absolutely sure that people in this country don’t want. Mr Lansley, who as we know hasn’t got the job anymore, said no, that’s not the case. But in fact it’s proceeding at almost breathtaking speed. I don’t know if listeners are aware, but the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is instructing health organisations to put over 140 different services out to tender as from next month. It’s huge. Now we’ve got companies like Virgin, everybody’s heard of Virgin. But they’ve now taken over whole areas of health care in the country. They’ve got a toe in the door in Cambridgeshire with running some support services for GPs. And of course locally we’ve already got Circle, the private company, supposedly managing Hinchinbrooke Hospital. One thing I’d like to say about that, if you don’t mind, is that they trumpeted that as a success story. In fact there are record numbers of complaints now at Hinchinbrooke. Staff sickness, there’s been a 50% increase recently. And they’re not even tackling the deficit they’re supposed to tackle. This is not a success story for the private sector. I’m sorry.
RONNIE BARBOUR: It’s interesting the response we’ve had, a lot of it favourable about the NHS Martin. But one of the responses we did get was saying that the NHS cannot be seen as some kind of holy cow, we can’t actully touch it. The advancement in medical science etcetera means that we have to sometimes streamline.
MARTIN BOOTH: Yes. We’re very much in favour of having an efficient health service, and in fact, compared to the rest of Europe, there’s still less spent on health care in this country than most other European countries. But handing whole sections over to the private sector is not a way of increasing efficiency. You look at the United States, where as we know, health care is virtually privatised. And it’s the least efficient system in the civilised world, if you look at the amount of money they’ve spent, and the average benefit to the population. There’s lots of money being handed over to private companies here, who I have to say are making big donations to the Tory Party, millions of pounds. It’s appalling. And it’s got nothing to do with improving health care. I’m sorry.
RONNIE BARBOUR: How is morale at the moment? Are people leaving the NHS, where you are for instance?
MARTIN BOOTH: No. I think certainly, and I work at Addenbrookes, people have always been very proud to work here. And they’re proud to work in the NHS. And people are not leaving. I think what’s happening, people feel under strain, because they’re under constant financial pressure. You probably had the report this morning about the finance directors saying they’re going to find it hard to make ends meet. I think that’s the problem. But that’s why to me what’s needed is a change in tack. They need to put some investment into the public services, so that you can improve what we’re doing. It will give more jobs and support to people. Certainly I think that bringing the private sector in to do it is not the answer at all, and that’s what this Bill is doing.
RONNIE BARBOUR: As a nation we are skint Martin, and so where would that money come from?
MARTIN BOOTH: Let’s put it this way, we’re not getting any less skint, because it’s still being siphoned off into banks, and not being invested in growth. They’re still borrowing money hand over fist, aren’t they? The deficit is increasing. It’s not going down. Surely what should be done, is it should be put into increasing work in the public sector, so you’ve got people with more jobs, more money to spend. That would have a knock on effect on the whole economy. We need a change of course. This is why we’re taking to the streets on October 20th top say that.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Do you think that if we had a different government, do you think the Labour Party would do anything different?
MARTIN BOOTH: Well I think Labour have got a lot to answer for as regards the NHS. They did put a lot of money in, that’s true, but unfortunately they also supported initiatives which wasted money, in my view, the private finance initiative which has led to a disastrous situation at Peterborough. I’m hoping that they’ll learn the lessons from that. What we’re looking for frankly is for them to speak up a little bit more about what’s going on now. We don’t seem to hear enough in my opinion from Labour opposing the terrible things which this government are doing to the NHS.