From 1st July, the Health and Care Act 2022 ushers in American-style Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). NHS England had previously broken up the English NHS into 42 ‘footprints’ – independent regional bodies initially named Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) like their American counterparts, then renamed ICSs. By putting ICSs on a legal footing, the Act effectively de-nationalises the English NHS and entrenches privatisation within it. This will harm patients and medical staff, while increasing profits for the long list of private companies, including American private health insurers, embedded in the NHS.
While Labour MPs voted against the legislation, the Labour leadership group failed to invest time and resources in educating the public on why Labour opposes the Act, or to speak up in favour of renationalising the NHS. Instead, Labour leader Kier Starmer declared his support for ‘partnering with the private sector’ to deliver healthcare, flagging up the split that exists in Labour Party. That’s why it’s important for us to put pressure on both the main political parties!
Given the huge public support that exists for a universal, publicly-provided NHS, the Conservatives have no democratic mandate to impose American ‘managed care’ – a two-tier system made up of a publicly funded but privately provided tier with profits extracted by denial of care, and an expanded private insurance funded tier – on England. The privatising agenda of the Act was therefore obscured, sowing confusion among MPs, journalists and the public. To counter this, we have gathered together resources from some of the country’s leading experts on the NHS, which expose the serious dangers hidden in this legislation. This research shows that the Act:
- Reduces access to medical services and emergency services.
- Enables closures of services, pushing those who can afford to do so into paying for their healthcare.
- Enables more public money to be diverted from patient care to private corporations and their shareholders.
- Enables private companies to make decisions on allocating public healthcare budgets.
- Completes the legal framework underpinning the transition of public healthcare assets into the private sector.
- Moves us towards the United States model of privatised healthcare.
- Abolishes the universal care guarantee long enshrined in the NHS.
The first piece of research comes from Professor Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick from the Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University. It was submitted to the Public Bill Committee in September 2021.
The second piece of research comes from the Health Policy Progress Group. It summarises the findings of a team of experts who studied the Bill on its way to being enshrined in law, and provides some vital historical context.