Health inequalities expert Sir Michael Marmot has called on the Government to come clean on whether or not it intends to privatise the NHS.
Short-term sticking plaster policies currently being announced and rolled out in the meantime are damaging the service overall, the director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity said.
Speaking today (17 January) at the Westminster Health Forum, Sir Michael warned that health leaders must be ‘aware of short-term fixes that might undermine a longer term agenda’ for the service.
When asked for his thoughts on private sector organisations delivering public health programmes, such as health checks, he said: ‘If your long-term agenda is to move to private provision healthcare then yes have a short-term fix that encourages the private sector.
‘If you say ‘Oh we’ve got a fire raging, we better have private provision’, then beware of that short-term fix that will damage the future of the National Health Service.’
Sir Michael added: ‘If you want a Swiss model, or some other model, if you’ve decided it’s going to be an insurance-based system with private provision, then come out and say that. But if you actually think the NHS is the right model, don’t undermine it. Don’t bring in the private sector to fix a short-term problem. Fix the problem.’
Research has shown that outsourcing NHS services to for-profit companies, consistently increased over the last decade.
According to The Lancet, this was directly corresponded with ‘significantly increased’ rates of treatable mortality, likely due to a decline in the quality of services.
Sir Michael also pointed to the previous decade of austerity and its impact on life expectancy – which had stalled in 2020 – and the apparent return to austerity-style policies.
Rather than use the Covid-19 pandemic to eliminate exposed health inequalities, England was faced with ‘the cost-of-living crisis and a completely chaotic Government’, equipped with a ‘return’ to austerity policies that ‘really damaged the public health’.
He said: ‘We’re in serious trouble. And there’s not much evidence that Westminster is taking it seriously.’
And despite the UK standing as the fifth richest economy, around 60% of the population were facing fuel poverty this winter.
The country must move from being a ‘poor country with a few rich people’ to one which actively improves ‘the living conditions for the bottom 60% of the population’.
Last autumn, 155 health and care organisations called on the then-health secretary to commit to publishing a health disparities paper, amid reports it was bring scrapped. The paper has yet not been published.
NHS England had also urged ICBs to prioritise system spending over in areas which have the highest health inequalities.