Private Sector

Tits-Up for Private Healthcare?

The scandal surrounding the PIP silicon breast implants is a result of money taking precedence over patient welfare. Surely this should make us rethink the role of the private sector in healthcare?

(Sorry about the title, sometimes you just can’t help yourself)

The last couple of weeks, there have been two unrelated stories in the news. The first has been the tragic scandal around PIP breast implants, which are accused of rupturing and possibly causing cancer. This has rightfully caused a lot of public concern about whether peoples’ health was at risk. The second hasn’t caused quite so much of a buzz outside of political circles; Andrew Lansley’s plans to raise the amount of income NHS trusts can make from the private sector to 49%.

Like I said, these stories are unrelated, but as I’ve been mulling them over they’ve grown some very definite links in my mind. The thing is, they’re both related to the private sector’s involvement in the healthcare industry. In the PIP scandal, most of the operations were done privately, at private cosmetic clinics, rather than on the NHS. And as the risks (which are still unclear) have been investigated, Lansley has criticised the unwillingness of some clinics to cooperate.

You can hardly blame them, really. There’s a lot of money in breast implants. I imagine there will be a lot less if people think that they are in fact ticking time-bombs. The whole issue is one of money, which sadly seems to be taking precedence over the welfare of 40,000 – 50,000 British women. The French government have offered to pay for the suspect implants’ removal. Lansley has not.

The reason these implants are thought to be dangerous is because they used industrial-grade silicon, rather than medical-grade. You don’t need to be an industry expert to figure out the reason behind this- it was cheaper. PIP could make cheap implants, and sell them to private clinics, who could put them into the chests of women whose self-images have been destroyed by the media. And everyone- baring the unfortunate women now carrying the implants around- was rolling in the money.

And since the present government is all about the expansion of the private sector within the NHS, this should really be more of a concern. I’m not against the private sector at all, but there’s no escaping that it’s primary motivation is profit. Whilst usually this isn’t a problem, I have serious reservations about that being the driving force when it’s people’s suffering we’re talking about.

It’s still early days, but the presiding image of the PIP scandal at the moment is one of private companies cutting corners to make money, and ordinary women paying the price. Since I believe healthcare should be universal and a fundamental right (something I know not everyone will agree with me on), this gets my back up a little.

The private sector most certainly does have a role to play in the NHS. But what we seem to be seeing at the moment is a rapid expansion of its involvement, without any apparent concern. As things stand there is a strong possibility of the taxpayer (through the NHS) having to pick up the bill for fixing mistakes of private clinics- which isn’t wrong, as the NHS should be there for anyone and everyone when they need it, but it seems a unfair for the private clinics to make money off the dodgy implants and face no consequences.

My advice is basically caution. The hallmark of the Health and Social Care Bill has been haste, with little consideration for the risks of the changes it seeks to make. This has tripped the government up already several times, and they should take the hint, before widespread privatisation really does send the health service tits-up.

Despicable Him


"I'm havin' a bad bad day/If you take it personal that's okay/Watch, this is so fun to see/Huh, despicable me"

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the film Despicable Me, good as it was. This is about George Osborne and his Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).


I know it’s over a day late, but to be honest I was so shocked and disgusted with Osborne’s announcements yesterday that I didn’t know what to say. I’d been expecting it to be bad but… I somehow failed to appreciate how awful it would be when it actually came around. Now, I could go on and on about the various people who will be horribly affected about this, but frankly you already know.

No, what I’m going to do is a lay person’s assessment of the economic madness this constitutes.

Now, the financial crisis was caused by the banks, behaving irresponsibly and taking outrageous risks. They did this because they were greedy bastards. They were able to do this because of poor regulation, which I accept was Labour’s bad. However, as Alan Johnson pointed out yesterday, Osborne himself was arguing for less regulation leading up to the crisis. So it’s fallacy to believe the Tories would have done anything different.

But it was Labour’s mistake. Their only real mistake in all of it, in my opinion. When the crisis hit, Brown and Darling responded immediately by nationalising the banks and pouring money into the economy. It worked. The recession ended, and we started the slow road to recovery.

Unfortunately, it left us with a deficit. A rather large deficit. But the decision at the time was that a deficit was better than a collapsed economy. Personally, I still agree with this. But anyway, along came the election and the Tories painted a picture of imminent financial disaster, making (false) analogies with Greece, and saying that everything needed to be cut immediately to plug the deficit as quickly as possible.

Now, the majority of people didn’t agree with this, but the Tories ended up in government and pursuing their cut-cut-cut agenda anyway (thanks to a spectacular U-turn by the Lib Dems). Which brings us to the CSR. The cuts are just as massive as we were promised, but somehow they come along with the promise that they will save the economy. To my mind, this doesn’t stand up.

The prediction is that this will result in half a million jobs being lost. Half a million. Given that the recovery has been faltering over the summer, this doesn’t seem smart. These people are going to have to be paid redundancy packages. Then a lot of them will end up on job-seekers allowance, unable to find jobs that don’t exist in the private sector. And those who are lucky enough to find jobs will be further inconvenienced by the hike in rail fares, making commuting all the more difficult.

This, it seems to me, is not going to help an already fragile economy. Especially when you look at the Republic of Ireland, who Osborne used as an example of how it should be done. They had a coalition government. They launched a similar program of massive cuts. They slipped back into a second recession. Funny how the coalition aren’t shouting about Ireland any more.

But aside from this gambling, this risk taking, this economic idiocy, there was something that disgusted me more yesterday. If you watch the footage back, Osborne is loving every minute of this announcement. Never mind that these cuts will cost at least 500,000 jobs. Never mind that they will cause misery for millions more. Never mind that they risk destroying the economy. He was enjoying it.

And so were the rest of the government benches. Why? Because these cuts are nothing to do with necessity. This is what Tories have longed to do, ever since Thatcher cut public services in the 80s. Even if there was no deficit, they would still want to cut back the state, this just gives them the opportunity. And the fact is that these measures will hit the poor hardest. The news is filled with economic analyses that show this. And meanwhile, the bankers, the tax dodgers and all of Osborne’s chums get off scott free.

That’s Tory fairness for you.