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. Angels77


  2. 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!

  3. Dave

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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

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