On 26 July 2022, IHRC hosted the event The American Corporate Capture of the NHS with Dr Bob Gill (GP, NHS campaigner & documentary filmmaker), chaired by Nargess Moballeghi. In the opening discussion, Dr Gill illustrated the background in regards to the gradual privatisation of the NHS, including under the changes under New Labour and what privatisation of the NHS in the UK will actually look like. He explained how the NHS is seen as an asset to be raided via the internal market and how we are in a phase where it is profitable for the Health Service to sell off patient data to other private companies such as Google and Facebook.
WATCH THE FULL EVENT HERE:
Please note, the conversation has been edited to make it more readable.
Dr Bob Gill: We are all witnessing at the moment the engineered crisis within the NHS. We’ve all experienced difficulty getting appointments with GPs, or if you need the casualty department [it] is really busy. If you need a hospital bed, you may need to queue up in the corridor of the hospital before you get there, maybe even for a day or two. The system is in meltdown but this is not some natural disaster, because what has happened is consecutive governments have very cleverly and by stealth, set the NHS up to fail. We are in the stage where the NHS must look bad in order to destroy public trust and to frighten the middle class out of the NHS and to take out private insurance. In order to understand this, you need a bit of background. It has been a 40-year project; there are some key documents which are online which if you want to know the background you can find. One of them is the economic restructuring group document from 1977 before Margaret Thatcher got into power which outlines the strategy of privatising the national utilities and also the Health Service. More recently in 1988, Oliver Letwin and John Redwood vote conservative MPs now but they used to be part of the privatisation unit of a big bank. They produced a document called “Britains Biggest Enterprise” and at the same time you had the Adam Smith Institute producing a document called “The Health of Nations.” Now what all this evidence has in common is converting the NHS from a publicly funded, but most importantly publicly provided service with minimal management and bureaucracy, into a system replicating the American system which is designed to make profit. And it makes profit primarily through the denial of care.
In the early 2000s, we started to see the outsourcing for the first time, under New Labour, of medical services and they were using the excuse of a long waiting list, and how do we manage the waiting list? What they did and they’re doing again is the say “well, let’s use private sector capacity”. Now this is another trick because they never decided to rebuild public capacity because they were going for further policies to shrink the NHS. You can see what is happening. They are shifting the delivery of care to private hands. What is the problem with that? The private sector is only interested in profitable work; they’re interested in the simplest cases, the least complex patients, the ones that they can make a profit from and when there are complications, they can dump that patient back on to the public sector and back on to the NHS.
Dr Gill described the current situation including how the private insurance company United Health is leading the way towards further privatisation. After his talk, there was a brief screening of Michael Moore’s film Sicko, which highlights issues around ‘managed care’ – the first stage of privatising their health system before going on to explain that profits are made by the removal of care.
Nargess and Dr Gill also took questions from the audience.
Naargess reads a comment from Yvonne: It’s pure selfish greed in the name of modernisation, in other words ripping you and me off big style. There are no words in the dictionary to describe the government for the decades of doing this. It’s making a huge profit off the expense of people’s health… If the government and opposition are not going to stop this then what can we do?
Dr Gill: I think the biggest problem that we have at the moment is lack of public awareness. This is why I am with you today because we are trying to get the message out. We have to break through the media imposed ignorance on the subject and the only way we can do that is to get a critical mass of engaged, active and determined members of the public. We have to build a grassroots movement to demand our NHS is renationalised because it is not a potential threat of privatisation, it is already done and it is going to creep further and further down this black hole. What I would advise people is get yourself informed; I cannot make it any easier than making a film to explain it all very clearly (The Great NHS Heist). The hard work is done. If you go to a website thegreatnhsheist.com, there’s plenty more material there. Learn about it, develop the easy messages and get out there get on to national radio stations, get on to talk programmes. Telling us the NHS is broken, telling us we cannot afford it, telling us people are living too long or eating too much or whatever. What we need to counter is the bogus arguments that they are putting forward to abandon the NHS.
Nargess: I’ve been following this topic both professionally as a journalist but, also through unfortunately my own personal experience with family members for about 10 years. At that time say, 10 years ago, I think there were less [negative experience with the NHS]… now it seems to be everybody – is it that they are just not connecting the dots?
Dr Bob Gill: The problem is, if you are really going to understand what is happening you have to accept some painful realities. And the painful reality is our elected representatives are actively trying to destroy all those things that make us a civilised society. We have normalised food banks, we have normalised the people working full time and still get in to debt to pay the bills. It has all been normalised. And in order to wake up, you have to accept we do not live in a democracy. We are constantly propagandised against our own interests so we have to come out of this self-imposed coma and accept the reality.
This event is very important in raising awareness about the state of our NHS and what we need to do to save it. It is a recommended watch for everyone who cares about their health. You can watch Dr Bob Gill’s documentary The Great NHS Heist here.