What Jeremy Hunt’s Tory conference speech really means for the future of the NHS

Jeremy Hunt made reference to personal tragedies under NHS care, just one part of his message to the nation that NHS problems are generated by universal healthcare not privitsation 

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Hunt's conference speech was a master class in PR and spin. It was also, in effect, a victory speech after the BMA suspended further industrial action as the junior doctor contract is imposed this week.

Hunt started as he meant to go on. He stated that he believes "totally and utterly in our NHS". Coming from Hunt, this was pure hypocrisy coming from someone who co-authored a book calling for the dismantling of the NHS.

The rhetoric served to bamboozle the public with smoke and mirrors. Despite the biggest funding squeeze in the history of the NHS generating a manufactured crisis, Hunt mentioned the A&E crisis only in passing. Despite a juggernaut of privatisation - the Health & Social Care Act 2012, integrated care, devolution, the Five Year Forward View to name a few policies - Hunt presented the Conservatives as champions of the NHS.

He kicked off with how cancer survival rates need drastic improvement. This is a complex subject. For example, international comparisons require looking at cancer performance relative to funding. The hidden agenda here is a narrative designed to sell the idea that the NHS does not perform well.

Jeremy Hunt on NHS mortality rates

He moved on to how mental health is a second class service. The reality is that mental health was one of the earliest testing grounds for NHS privatisation. The mental health crisis has been generated by massive cuts and closures sold as care in the community in parallel with corporate takeover of services. The end result is a perpetual bed crisis and insufficient community resources for patients with serious mental illness. The same policies are now in the pipeline for physical health labelled as integrated care.

Hunt made reference to personal tragedies under NHS care. Again, this is part of feeding the big lie to the public that NHS problems are generated by the concept of public, universal healthcare. In reality, the NHS is now a market system with the logo used to conceal the corporate takeover and the billions siphoned off to the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), outsourcing and fees to management consultants, big four accountancy firms and lawyers for reconfigurations.

As I have mentioned many times before, if you truly want to improve the NHS then you would remove the market and reverse privatisation as per the NHS reinstatement bill. This would free up billions to spend on patient care. In other words, the opposite of Conservative policy.

Hunt eventually got round to the junior doctors dispute. In light of his misuse of statistics around the weekend effect, he made a plea to doctors and the BMA - "let's not argue about statistics". This was actually bang on for once. The point about Conservative NHS policy is that it is ideological.

There are elements of the junior doctor movement, who believe that reasoned discussion or presenting evidence will change the direction of policy. They speak of Jeremy Hunt having no plan or handling the dispute incompetently. This is nothing more than wishful thinking. Hunt has a very clear plan and it is driven by private healthcare and insurance corporations.

At the end, Hunt emotionally described how the aim is a safer NHS looking after our families for years to come. He even stated that nothing matters more to this government than protecting the NHS. He deliberately omitted to mention that the House of Lords has set up an NHS Long term Sustainability Committee. That's a euphemistic way of saying that the NHS is no longer affordable (despite being the most cost-effective model of healthcare) and we are looking beyond taxpayer funding to private health insurance and charging.

Listening to Hunt's speech, you would be lulled into thinking that the NHS is in safe hands. You would never have guessed that we are in the endgame of NHS privatisation and conversion into a private health insurance system.

How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps by Youssef El-Gingihy is published by Zero books

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