The simple battle between the public sector and the private sector is always a hard act to balance. Successive governments since the post-war era have struggled to find solutions for various public businesses, keeping the British interest at heart and battling party ideology in the process, sometimes making very unpopular decisions.
Under the tenure of David Cameron and the coalition, there seems to be an almighty shift in favour of the private sector. All manner of institutes are near to or being sold off to improve public welfare, ranging from BBC buildings to NHS services. Very little seems safe from harm, and the end result could be a dangerous and counter-productive one, with the issue set to be debated by the House of Lords this week as to whether the NHS reforms go through.
The NHS reforms centre around the concept of competition for services – the ones that provide the best care, efficiency and for the least amount of money will be chosen. Along with the cap on private patients treated by the NHS being removed, more power is also taken from local GP’s and given to local commissions, only receiving funding when they are deemed worthy of it. It seems strange these changes are backed one hundred percent by Cameron and his Healthy Secretary, Andrew Lansley. Only a few months ago, the NHS was voted the most efficient service in the world by the Royal Society of Medicine. However, all hospitals will now become Foundation Trusts; prioritising money saving and having the ability to close down public wards without consultation.
Another of the latest modern examples of private institutions entering the public domain is the issue of academies. The idea essentially means any failing schools can be closed down and reopened under a new guise with more funding supplied by an outside source (i.e not the government), either from a company/business or an institution. It has been done for a number of years in small areas, such as contracting out school dinners to catering companies because the issue is viewed as minor by the governing board, much like the proposed NHS reforms.
It seems fairly innocent and innocuous, but recently the balance has been shifting. Take an example local to my hometown. The Bishop of Rochester Academy was set up on the back of one miserably failing school and one that performed fairly well given the standard of education in the area. Their funding comes partly from the government, but mainly from the Rochester Diocesan Board of Education, a branch of the Church of England. It might seem slightly innocent on the face of it, but this means that in exchange for the funding given to the school, elements of the daily routine and school structure are altered.
The pattern of public sector influence across British history is practically incomparable to other countries like America. So much is the case, that the proposed healthcare reforms slowly filtering their way into congress for debate partially mirror the universal healthcare of the NHS. It is an undoubted privilege for anyone in the country and a right for any citizen. This has been the basis and foundation of healthcare since being pioneered by Nye Bevan in 1948 and ideally, shall always be.
What does it mean for Britain to have access to free healthcare and free education? Everything, quite frankly. These are the foundations of our modern society, and the values have barely changed. To compromise on these services for the sake of national debt is foolish and a backwards step, all for the sake of saving money.