The Sun: preparing its readership for NHS privatisation

The NHS is in 'crisis', according to today's Sun. But is it really? Or at least, is it in the way the Sun is arguing?

The NHS is in ‘crisis’, according to today’s Sun. But is it really? Or at least, is it in the way the Sun is arguing?

‘NHS in crisis’ – that’s The Sun’s verdict on the health service today. The paper points to “A&E swamped, long waits for GP” and a care “timebomb”.

This alarming analysis by The Sun dominates their main news coverage. They’re clearly searching for problems – “are you a media with a horror story about the NHS? Call our newsdesk”, page five screams.

Most of the ‘research’ is already publicly known. They provide a breakdown of “how your money is spent”, the “5 most expensive conditions” (of which, bizarrely, mental health is lumped into one category to be contrasted with cancer and arthiritis), and some Royal College of GP stats on appointments.

Most of the original material comes from a YouGov poll for the paper, which says a third people think their NHS services have got worse in recent years.

Yet this is an engineered crisis. Here are five reasons why not to trust the Sun’s attempt to undermine the service:

1. There’s a motive behind this coverage

Why are they running this three-day series on their ‘crisis’ in the NHS now? The editorial on page eight explains the paper’s intentions:

“[The NHS] needs radical reform to survive…It must be reinvented with a far greater role for the private sector in treatment and care.”

“The old NHS model is failing and will only deteriorate.”

And the final Thatcherite coup de grace – “There is no alternative.”

So Murdoch’s mouthpiece is talking down the NHS to prepare it for privatisation, much as British Rail was driven down by the right before its sell-off, or how the coalition claimed Royal Mail needed significant ‘new investment’ despite operating on a £400m profit. Only a cynic would suggest the Tory-linked paper would be doing the Conservative’s chosen bidding…

2. There is no financial crisis in the NHS

The National Audit Office’s most recent report into the NHS’ finances says that the NHS is operating a pretty large surplus. It is not, therefore, technically in need of a major new [private] cash injection’. The health service is running on a £2.1bn surplus for the June 2012 to June 2013 year. But the report also revealed there is “a substantial gap between the trusts with the largest surpluses and those with the largest deficits”.

Why? Because the trusts, being broken-up semi-autonomous units by their very nature, cannot redistribute funds within the service. Splitting up the NHS into independent bodies was a key part of Labour’s push to quasi-privatise elements of the service – exactly what The Sun wants more of.

3. Even the US people think the NHS is the best health care system

A report out earlier this month by the US-based Commonwealth Fund found that the UK is the first out of the richest eleven countries for its health-care system – far ahead of the private sector-dominated US system. It ranks first on quality of care, efficiency (overall cost by GDP) and low cost at the point of service (direct ‘cost’ to the patient – i.e. free in the UK). The US came last.

4. The ‘crisis’ – if there is one – is partly a result of government cuts and privatisation

Despite NHS funding being maintained by the government, it is not matched to demand. Therefore the system is having to deal with increased demand while funding remains the same. Anyone would understand this is a recipe for disaster.

Even the government’s National Audit Office says it is “not clear” whether the cuts are sustainable, with £20bn of savings forced upon the service by 2015. 7,000 nurses have been axed since 2010 – that’s inevitably going to have a huge impact as understaffing bites.

Meanwhile the government’s Health and Social Care Act has forced thousands of new expensive tendering processes, while the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership threatens that private firms may soon sue for lost business if services stay in public hands – potentially costing billions to the tax-payer.

5. Money comes from somewhere

This magic private-sector investment The Sun trumpets poses a question – why would companies ‘invest’ in the NHS? Either they would simply be providing services still paid for through tax (while reaping a handsome profit at our expense) or through direct funding at the point of use – completely undermining the NHS’ core value of being free for everyone.

Instead of lining the pockets of Circle, Serco or Richard Branson’s Virgin Healthcare, coping with an ageing population, obesity and GP waits could be dealt with by doing the unthinkable – raising tax. It should be done progressively, but if there is a ‘crisis’ in health it should be done.

The Lib Dems have, to their credit, been brave enough to suggest this yesterday following Labour’s lead. The public support the idea – now it’s up to parties ostensibly against privatisation to get it firmly on the agenda.

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19 Responses to “The Sun: preparing its readership for NHS privatisation”

  1. Cole

    Thus follows a similar propaganda campaign in the Times complete with completely misleading front page stories.

  2. treborc1

    OK do you not see it then my grandson had toothache I phoned up the emergency dentist we do not have an NHS dentist by me, and I was told the waiting time is two years, I paid £650 to have his tooth filled.

    The hospital in Wales are in melt down I know I use them all the time I’m disabled , if I make an appointment with my GP you get told he is full up come back in two weeks, you go back in two weeks your told your to late he is full up again, why what’s the matter well this lump I have in my groin ok go down to the hospital now, you go to the hospital have you seen your GP this is not a dumping ground for his patients, ok lets have a look at this lump, Jesus you better come in to have tests how long have you had it well four weeks why did you not come in earlier, because I could not get to see my GP. The lump was a blood clot the doctor said if it had moved I would have died.

    This is nothing new for us I’ve not seen a dentist for ten years I cannot find one, my kids have not seen one for years.

    After Blair and that oaf Brown f*cked up the NHS and they did pouring money into it does not fix it or sort it out it just gives them money to waste. maybe it’s time to get the private sector involved lets see what they can offer. Because both of the political parties have been trying to do it for years.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Dentistry is a picture of where the general NHS is going.

    Technically, sure, care is cheap/free, but…

  4. blarg1987

    To correct your last point, I think you will find that New Labour actually increased private providers in the NHS and ran things along market lines which the coalition have continued.

    The NHS did need more money was some of it wasted? I would not disagree the big two in my view are PFI and outsourcing parts of the NHS that used to be done in house, leading to money being spent on contract specialists and lawyers.

    Now the idea the private sector would be any better is questionable, you would probably get hospitals paying a premium to use the building as a hedge fund would buy the NHS assets on the cheap to sell off to a company at an extortionate price that the hospital has to rent back. The other thing you may find is that you may be considered a liability and although the industry may have an obligation to treat you, they would try their damn hardest to give you the bare minimum to reduce the costs you may impose on them.

  5. Julian Gibb

    …and what does the Labour Party do? They demand a “Pause on Privatisation”

    A PAUSE what has gone wrong with the Party? The strongest stance we can take is to request a pause.

    The NHS is a core value – fight for it!

  6. Angels77


  7. Disoye

    Goebbels would be proud of Tory propaganda machine. Backed by media, money men & those in US who said the NHS was @RICH PICKINGS FOR PRIVATE SECTOR. Don’t people realize, when NHS gone they will be lining pockets of rich investors. Wake up & defend the NHS. Join a march, just do something!

  8. Dave

    You claim that the public support paying higher taxes for the NHS, but your link says that the majority oppose it. Very misleading.

  9. SinikalJuan

    Due to cancer I have been assured by my GP I can get fast-tracked in to see her because I am classed as an emergency case. The first time I used my privilege it took 8 days to see her, the second she phoned back within 4 days for a telephone consultation. The medication I’m on is issued sparingly so I can’t stockpile to safeguard myself. Even diligence with timings of prescriptions can be a problem because if I contact the hospital they refer me to my GP and my GP’s Receptionist refers me back to the ward. Don’t get yourself stressed is one of the key issues with cancer but the systems that have been (purposely?) introduced over recent years seem to encourage mayhem and confusion. In my opinion the NHS was never like this until they started privatising certain parts of it or moulding systems to a corporate model. Square pegs and round holes. One further point I want to add is the aim of personal health insurance being the way forward……..I have never had a claim for an illness, procedure or my current health problems agreed and paid for by any insurance company I’ve had cover with. They’ll offer premiums paid less admin costs back as a gesture of goodwill (if you put up a fight) after finding terms and conditions that nullify your valid claim. Insurers are on a par with Bankers who are on a par with Politicians who are on a par with the majority of the British Press……lying, deceitful propagandists.

  10. jeffrey davies

    treborc1correct brown dont the dentists in but nhs is finished if that 99percent who aint rich get up and protest you see when cams said nhs was dafe in his hands he lied but then hes never told the truth so if you value you nhs protest to mp about sharpish or there wont be one around like the dentist you cant find one oh for those who sais cheaper to get insurance who with unum the biggest cowboys in the world insurance company who take you monies for that policy yet stiff you when you want that payout look to america were they done this in fifteen states getting banned but came over here advising previous governments on how to run dwp hospitals yes cowboys are in charge jeff3

  11. PeterD

    The majority do not oppose it; 44% agree, 29% disagree, 25% neither agree nor disagree, with some ‘don’t knows’.

  12. richard williams

    I guess we know what Jeremy Hunt’s bestest friends friend think then!

  13. richard williams

    The labour party lacks any grit or gumption, too busy flipping between what the people want and being typical MPs and looking after their own self- interest. I guess we know what will follow pause – carry on then, our friends want the profits of patinet misery too!
    No doubt Ed milliband would invite the public into PMQs to ask him why the NHS should not be privatised for him to give the usual placations, only to be working towards it anyway!
    I no longer have any idea what this Labour party stands for when it constantly sits on its hands!

  14. richard williams

    To be fair they are pcking on a soft target if they expect labour to stand up for the people and not the business interests!

  15. richard williams

    Why should i pay more tax when big corporations are avoiding more ethan it takes to run the NHS. if they said all the money made from tightening up on tax avaidance into the health service then there’s a policy. They won’t of course because they themselves are in the pockets of big industry they just want to be seen to have a tax policy that is slightly fairer whilst they and their friends still win big time!

  16. David Stringer

    Treborc, that’s obviously unacceptable, but it’s not necessarily that national health has failed you and privatised health would work better – American kids have a significantly higher amount of damaged teeth:

    Blair and Brown increased the amount paid into the NHS, but a lot of that went straight through to private subcontractors.

  17. BessieBraddock

    The Labour Party will repeal the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 and will not allow private providers to bid for NHS services. That is a promise. Just as it will repeal the Bedroom Tax.

  18. Jingoistic

    I must be lucky as my Doctor dose not believe in privatisation.

  19. Ivan D

    My wife works for the NHS in the front line. Her views on it’s management are forthright and largely unprintable. I accept quite a lot of what you say in this article but am tired of it being a sacred cow and being seen as above criticism. Before we advocate simply throwing more money at it, we might consider having an adult debate about how it is run and how it might be improved. If that debate could rise above public /private tribalism it would be a good thing. It would also be a lot more honest to make comparisons with successful, predominantly socialised systems in say France and Germany rather than constantly raising the spectre of the US system, which I agree is quite appalling. We seem to be reaching a point at which the left has become more reactionary than it is progressive and this is most evident in the entrenched position many people take on the NHS.

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