Current state of the care sector: what will happen if the NHS is privatised?

In the run-up to the UK general election in 2019, the news was dominated by the possibility of the NHS being privatised. Now, current proposals are suggesting that the NHS be opened up to greater competition. The argument is, that by enabling there to be a level playing field between the NHS, and private and voluntary sector organisations; patients are provided with a choice about who they want to access healthcare services from.

The questions we found ourselves asking are: are these rumours even true, and if so, how will they affect the care sector? 

What’s going to happen to the NHS?

Currently, it’s estimated that 7%-22% of the total healthcare budget goes to private providers – so privatisation isn’t a new concept.

In fact, this wasn’t even a discussion point until Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of wanting to sell off the NHS – alleging that he planned to spend £500 million a week that could have been spent on nurses, on investment in US drug companies instead. 

Johnson denied this, stating that the NHS would never be up for trade negotiations, and would never be sold. Further analysis found that even if this wasn’t the case, £500 million a week was an extremely farfetched figure, with the actual amount being much less. You can read more about the discussion here.

This, however, only tells part of the story. The US has been incredibly open about the possibility of the NHS spending more money on drugs from North American companies. In fact, US companies are already allowed to bid for private contracts in England to provide clinical services.

Yet the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU doesn’t show any changes to current health service provisioning, drug pricing, or the NHS in general. Therefore, while we can conclude that the NHS isn’t going to be fully privatised any time soon, the situation regarding the investment in drugs is still very much up-in-the-air.

Boris’ promise to fix social care

In his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris vowed he would find a solution to the social care crisis, to provide the elderly with access to the care they need.

He stated: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.”

To provide help for the elderly and disabled with tasks such as dressing, washing and eating would cost £8 billion a year alone for England – and if free personal care for everyone were to be introduced, this would increase to £15 billion.

What does this mean for the care sector?

With no future plans to privatise the NHS, the answer to that particular question is: not much. But interestingly, at our roundtable discussion on the future of dementia care, the topic did come up.

Speaking of funding, Tony Stein, CEO of Healthcare Management Solutions stated that whilst he didn’t want it to happen, he believed privatisation would help the care sector, due to the commercial pressures that naturally come hand-in-hand with the private sector.

He went on to discuss the need to combine health and care budgets so that decisions could be made for individuals as opposed to institutions – and that until this was resolved, hypothecated funding was needed for local authorities to bridge the gap.

Lack of funding

Rather than worrying about ‘what if’s’ with regards to the privatisation of the NHS, we should instead focus on the funding issues we are currently faced with. Over 1.4 million people in England are unable to access the care they need, due to the cuts in our sector, coupled with unfair means-testing and rationing.

The delayed social care green paper is not helping with this. Having been delayed more than six times since it was first announced in March 2017, we’re waiting on policies that include a cap on social care charges, more generous means-testing, tax-free withdrawals from pension pots and much more.

While Labour and Conservative chancellors requested in July 2019 an investment of £8billion to help tackle the issues the delay has brought, in addition to a further £7 billion investment every year, this is a problem that as of yet, has not been resolved.

Final thoughts

The research has been done to show that the NHS will not be privatised, and only time will tell with regards to the trade deal between the UK and US. Rather than focusing our worries on this, we need to keep our attention focused firmly on the problems we as a sector currently face: specifically, a lack of funding, recruitment and retention, and the need to introduce new technology.

If you would like to take advantage of our consultation service – whether it’s advice on dealing with the pressures of lack of funding, designing your care homes around the needs of dementia residents, or anything else, then get in touch. Alternatively, for the latest news in the sector, head on over to our blog.

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