‘Don’t be fooled, Matt Hancock will be no better for the NHS than Jeremy Hunt was’
Jeremy Hunt became a lightning rod for the medical profession’s dissatisfaction and the wider public’s disgruntlement with an NHS pushed to breaking point. He has departed following the announcement of a £20bn NHS birthday funding package and will hope that this enhances his legacy as the longest serving health secretary.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth took a different view tweeting that Hunt’s toxic legacy includes £9bn of NHS privatisation, 4 million on waiting lists, 100,000 staff vacancies and A&E in a “humanitarian crisis”.
As I wrote last week, the funding package comes with strings attached to a US-style model of accountable/integrated healthcare, with the danger of carving up health and social care multibillion pound 10- to 15-year contracts for private healthcare and insurance companies.
Hunt promoted patient safety as his obsession. And yet since 2010, there have been 120,000 excess deaths in health and social care linked to austerity. In 2015 alone, there were 30,000 excess deaths with the likely main cause being health and social care system failures linked to cuts. Cuts and privatisation are not exactly a recipe for patient safety.
It is likely that Hunt will be remembered for precipitating the junior doctors’ strikes over the imposition of a new contract. Undoubtedly some will have celebrated the departure of Hunt. Don’t be fooled, Hunt was merely a figurehead. His new replacement Matt Hancock is likely to be no better.
Hancock has already waded into controversy over £32,000 in donations from Neil Record — the current chairman of right-wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) appointed in 2015 after seven years on its board. The IEA describes itself as the original free market think tank. It was instrumental in the emergence of neoliberalism — the free market orthodoxy entailing deregulation, financialisation, privatisation and shrinking the public sector.
Its head of health and welfare Kristian Niemitz is in favour of NHS privatisation and its replacement with an insurance system. Only last week, Kate Andrews from the IEA recorded a video (to coincide with the NHS birthday) for BBC Newsnight arguing for the overhaul of the NHS.
Hancock voted in favour of the Lansley Health and Social Care Act 2012, which has led to NHS outsourcing to the private sector…