How Market Reforms Made the NHS Vulnerable to Pandemics

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2031 ... March 25, 2020

How Market Reforms Made the NHS Vulnerable to Pandemics

Colin Leys

A 2014 report warned that reforms to the National Health Service (NHS) would make it vulnerable to pandemics – by making staff redundant, undermining public health and defining spare capacity as waste. It was ignored.

The 2014 detailed report by two public health experts asked what Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, passed two years earlier, meant for the state’s ability to protect its citizens when (not if) the next pandemic arrived.

"The next pandemic," the authors pointed out, "could arise from H5N1 (‘bird flu’)... or come from elsewhere. When it comes, there may be only a few weeks’ warning before there are significant numbers of cases in the UK." What the report showed was that although a pandemic was at the top of the government’s civil risk register, the Lansley Act had dramatically increased this risk. Institutional memory and expert resources had been discarded, with no less than 10,000 key NHS staff made redundant. Responsibility for co-ordinating the response to... an epidemic had been divided among a variety of agencies with no clear line of central authority, and private providers of NHS care were not subject to central direction.

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