Letters, calls and emails: Private provision is not cure for NHS ills

Dear Editor

The new health secretary Alan Johnson has made a positive start by admitting that the government has failed to engage sufficiently with patients, doctors and other NHS staff and to acknowledge the profession's poor morale and disenchantment with current health policy.

He surely has leadership qualities, vision and clear plans for the future of the NHS.

Unfortunately, some in the government seem to think that the only problems in healthcare are problems of presentation, whereas what is required is a change of direction of travel.

The unprecedented marketisation, privatisation and commercialisation are destroying the NHS. England's current NHS policy is fundamentally flawed. The DoH believes that as much public money as possible should be used to bring in more private providers and create competition. England's state hospitals will continue to be run down or closed as they fight for NHS-funded business with the private sector.

The DoH was recently exposed as the second-worst performing government department in a report commissioned by cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell.

Using public money to help the private sector and introducing market forces into healthcare are anathema to everything the NHS stands for.

It is dividing and destroying the NHS. My opposition to stimulating private-sector competition with the NHS at taxpayers' expense is not just based on ideology. I question the very idea that markets in healthcare are the route to improvement. There is now a price on every patient's head, with independent treatment centres and hospitals able to cherry pick patients who can be treated simply and quickly while disregarding those who have complex and chronic illnesses.

The NHS needs to get itself out of the market mentality of dog eat dog, where the way forward is to compete and take business and services away from each other. We need a situation where you don't get winners and losers but work together for the same end - a healthier nation.

As a first step no more taxpayers' money should be invested in private surgery units and hospitals but should instead be used to increase NHS capacity. Then Mr Johnson must reform the DoH and loosen the grip of bureaucracy on GPs.

Dr Kailash Chand Ashton-under-Lyne.

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