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Stephen Hawking is joining a legal action aimed at questioning yet another set of changes in the NHS [the UK’s National Health Service] which like most previous ones it is feared will lead to greater privatisation and rationing of resources. The introduction of ACOs modelled on US healthcare structures, is being opposed by a number of senior NHS professionals and healthcare analysts.
“I am concerned that accountable care organisations [ACOs] are an attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS,” Hawking told the Guardian, explaining his move.
“They have not been established by statute, and they appear to be being used for reducing public expenditure, for cutting services and for allowing private companies to receive and benefit from significant sums of public money for organising and providing services.”
“I am joining this legal action because the NHS is being taken in a direction which I oppose, as I stated in August, without proper public and parliamentary scrutiny, consultations and debate,” said Hawking.
“I want the attention of the people of England to be drawn to what is happening and for those who are entrusted with responsibility for the NHS to account openly for themselves in public, and to be judged accordingly.”
“Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health and one of the four people who instigated the legal action in October, said: “We are honoured and delighted that Prof Stephen Hawking, who cares so deeply about the NHS, is joining this legal action. The full details of these ACOs must be published and consulted on before they progress any further. This should be the first rule of good and transparent administration for the NHS.”
An assessment of the needs of the NHS for this year’s budget concluded that £4bn were necessary to continue working at the present level. However it was given less than half that sum and some rationing measures are already in place to deal with the expected winter crisis. Compared to the £205bn (CND estimate) approved to replace the Trident nuclear missile system and the £37bn of the obsolete-before-completion nuclear power plant at Hinckley Point, (also known to be the most expensive kw/h contract that will lock the British public for the foreseeable future into it, and unable to choose renewables which are already much cheaper options, not to mention safer and healthier) it is clear that the wish of the present government is to serve the interests of the private healthcare companies, many of them from the US with the well known strategy of running down public services in order to justify privatising them.
Denouncing these machinations is, however, a Catch 22, necessary to promote a public reaction against privatisation, but also scaring the public into taking up private medical insurance in case the NHS collapses completely. It remains, in spite of years of moves to destroy it one of the most efficient systems of the world, both in terms of value-for-money and outcomes. And this is due to the commitment of its staff and the public that supports it, who remain vigilant to the political manipulation and supportive of the staff who they decide to carry out industrial action when at breaking point.
Prof Hawking has said many times that the NHS has saved his life. It is hoped that the legal action he has joined will carry out a comprehensive review of the needs of the NHS and the new changes being introduced.