COLUMN: Facts, fiction and the NHS

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In this world of ‘post truth’, the new ‘age of un-enlightenment’, where policy appears to be driven by falsehoods rather than facts, it came as no surprise in 2016 when Michael Gove stated 
“we have had enough of experts.”

Professor Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, has sold more than ten million copies and has been translated into 35 languages.

As a serious beneficiary of the NHS, science, facts and accuracy are his stock in trade. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in my view, is punching far above his weight by picking a fight with one of the the world’s premier scientists.

In my opinion, there is a stench of hypocrisy when Hunt denies that the government is steering towards a US-style private health insurance system.

In 2005, the Tory MP who later defected to UKIP, Douglas Carswell, oversaw the publication of a book entitled Direct Democracy: An Agenda For A New Model Party which was co-written by, among other Tory MPs, a certain Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Kwasi Kwarteng.

On page 74 you’ll find this statement: “We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice,.

It also adds on page 78 “our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.”

Jeremy Hunt may persist with his heated tweeting denials to Hawking, but as well as NHS involvement of five major private hospital groups, over the past decade many major NHS contracts have been farmed out to profit-seeking companies like United Health/Optum.

The latter is particularly interesting.

In 2014 David Cameron appointed Simon Stevens as the current chief executive of the NHS.

Stevens is British, but from 2004-2013 was vice-president of US private health insurance giant, UnitedHealth, which in 2016 turned over $184.8 billion.

In that role Stevens became a founder member of a US lobby group - the Alliance for Health Care Competitiveness - explicitly trying to force state-run health systems, including the NHS, to employ private health firms from the US.

To patients and the public, such information remains obscure and tends to be buried by a mainstream media which, in my opinion, serves privatisation’s agenda.

The only ‘news’ that we are fed about the under-funded NHS centres on topics such as people dying on trolleys in corridors, cancelled operations or the failure of ambulances to turn up on time which can be expanded to banner headlines.

But of course, as Michael Gove succinctly tells us, we don’t need ‘experts.’