Thursday, 19 March 2015

Pensioners' Manifesto: Eric Ollerenshaw MP on the NHS

Eric Ollerenshaw MP
Lancaster & Fleetwood
Lancaster & Fleetwood Conservative MP Eric Ollerenshaw has emailed Virtual-Lancaster to clarify his position on the National Pensioners' Convention Manifesto policy on health and care services.

Lancaster District Pensioners Campaign Group (LDPCG) had asked prospective parliamentary candidates to support the Manifesto's five core policies. Five responded and you can read their answers here (Labour and Lib-Dem) and here (Greens and Conservative). As we noted Mr Ollerenshaw's answer only dealt with four of these.

The missing policy was: 'A National Health and Care Service which is free at the point of use and funded through taxation'

Mr Ollerenshaw wrote to us: 

Thank you for bringing my attention to the issue of the NHS that was not covered in the initial letter to the Lancaster District Pensioners' Campaign Group.

It should be said at the outset that the Government has always been clear that it is committed to protecting the NHS. That is why it has increased spending for the NHS and why it has guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free, regardless of ability to pay. It will not privatise the NHS.

What the Government's health reforms actually do is provide the framework to enable patients to be treated by the providers best able to meet their needs and give patients greater individual choice and control over their care. For the first time, the Health and Social Care Act will ensure the NHS is properly regulated so that all services provided by the NHS, charitable groups or the private sector will have to focus on what is best for patients.

This is about offering patients more choice, control and driving up the quality of their care, and the idea that this will have a negative impact on healthcare and patients is wrong. Patients have already had choice for non-urgent hospital treatments like joint replacements for several years and this hasn't destabilised services.

We remain committed to providing a National Health and Care Service which is free at the point of entry and will continue to do so, any competition in the NHS should act as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.   I can assure you that I did not duck the issue and I hope this letter sets out mine, and the Conservative Party’s, position on the issue.

Yours sincerely,
Eric Ollerenshaw OBE MP

Non-Privatisation of the NHS?
We were particularly interested in reading Mr Ollerenshaw's views, as they helpfully cover a wider area than requested. It should be clarified that, since the Health and Social Care Act passed in 2012 (with Mr Ollerenshaw's support), over 70% of tendered contracts have been awarded to the private sector, amounting to over £13 billion worth of NHS services falling into private hands.

A recent investigation by Unite found that £1.5 billion worth of NHS contracts have been sold off to just 15 private companies with financial links to 24 Conservative politicians.  64 Conservative MPs (Mr Ollerenshaw is not one of them) and one in 4 Conservative peers have recent or present financial connections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare and all were able to vote for the Health and Social Care Bill (enacted in 2012), despite having a prejudicial interest, which would not have been allowed at local council level.

In 2009, while preparing the white paper that led to the Act, then Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley received £21,000 to his personal office from John Nash, then chairman of the private healthcare company Care UK. By 2013, 96 per cent of Care UK’s business, amounting to over £400 million, came from the NHS.

NHS plans concealed from public before election
Despite this early preparation, the radical changes Lansley and Care UK planned for the NHS with the Health and Social Care Act were not disclosed in the Conservative's manifesto prior to their election in 2010. They were not discussed during the general election campaign that year and were not contained in the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement. But within two months of the election Lansley's white paper was published, outlining what the Daily Telegraph called the "biggest revolution in the NHS since its foundation"  - a revolution which ensured that £millions of taxpayers' money would be channelled out of the NHS into the pockets of private healthco shareholders,

Contractors paid for failure
By 2013, the BMJ reported, private companies on “take or pay” contracts from the NHS - that is, where the fee is paid regardless of whether services are used - had received more than £217m for operations that did not happen. The NHS paid Clinicenta £53m after terminating its contract when it was found non-compliant with Care Quality Commission (CQC) standards and local GPs became reluctant to refer their patients to it.

Waiting lists expanded
Figures published in August 2014 showed the number of patients on NHS waiting lists for operations at its highest for six years, with 3.2million people awaiting surgery – a rise of 700,000 compared with 2010. Of those who had surgery in June 2014 32,500 had waited longer than 18 weeks.  This was 57 per cent more patients than in May 2010, when just 20,662 had waited too long, according to NHS England figures.

In response Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a £250million bailout to clear a backlog of up to 100,000 knee, hip and cataract operations for those waiting the longest. He attributed the backlog to an increase in the number of elderly people, which does not seem to have been anticipated by the government's health planners.

Jeremy Hunt received two donations to his constituency office from hedge fund boss Andrew Law. Law has donated over £600,000 to the Tories and his firm holds multi-million healthcare investments.  

Seven Tory MPs have received funding from Robin Crispin Odey, whose hedge fund Odey Asset Management part-owns health giant Circle. Aside from winning a franchise to run the first fully privatized NHS hospital at Hinchingbrooke, Circle also won a £120 million contract to run musculoskeletal services in Bedfordshire.  

In January 2015, Circle announced it was pulling out of the Hinchingbrooke Hospital franchise just three years into its ten year contract, as CQC inspectors branded its services "inadequate" and called for it to be placed in special measures. Inspections at Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire uncovered "a number of serious concerns" about staffing, risks to patient safety - particularly in the casualty department - and medical care as well as further issues relating to the way in which the trust was led and run.  The trust, operated by Circle Holdings since 2012, became the first in England to be rated inadequate for "caring".

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