Privatisation: time recognise it's bad for our health
Health ministers insist that the NHS is not being privatised. Their policies tell us something else. In many different ways the private sector has been given ground-breaking access to run NHS services for profit.
Governments of all colours have made strides in involving the private sector. But the big surge came with the Health and Social Act of 2012. It was controversial and devilshly complicated.
Few of us understood it - including many of those who voted it in to law on our behalf.
Even now the detail of how the NHS goes about bidding for its own work in open competition with companies and charities is tricky to comprehend. But only one question matters: Is this really a good way to plan health care?
Five years on and the evidence overwhelmingly says no.
But why should we care whether it's a business that organises our care? Surely as long as patients get treated effectively and our care remains free at the point of use surely the NHS is safe?
The painful truth is that this vast experiment has generated a catalogue of problems and failures. Much of this evidence has been ignored or distorted and national policy does not yet reflect this suffering.
It goes deeper than we thought. The NHS is tied into long contracts that would be expensive to leave. Now that we want more community health and less hospital care, the decisions to sell off longterm care capacity will come back to bite us and deepens our dependency on the private sector.
At the same time public funding of the NHS has been kept at a record low. The NHS is crying out for genuine and wholehearted support.
For too long minsters have glanced towards the private sector for inspiration. Now the that we have experience of their involvment we know that contracts will not always deliver and that ultimately it is the NHS that organises care when the market fails.
The evidence tells us that the lasting solutions will be generated focusing on running services through public not private hands.