David Cameron repeatedly promised to protect "our NHS" but now the world's most beloved healthcare system is on the chopping block, thanks to a quiet inquiry in the unelected House of Lords.
Lord David Prior, the former Tory Party chairman who now serves as Under Secretary of State for NHS Productivity, moved the creation of the inquiry in a debate in the Lords on 9 July. The Tory peer Lord Cormack spoke in favour of the move, saying "Whether the extra funding comes from compulsory insurances or certain charges matters not, but it has to come." Sure, it "matters not" if you're LARPing a Dickensian robber-baron who can't fathom the possibility that the people whose pitiful personal wealth you've harvested like so much krill through attacks on working conditions, trade unions, and benefits won't actually have any money to pay to keep themselves healthy.
"I would like to meet the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and maybe two or three others, to discuss this in more detail to see whether we can frame some kind of independent inquiry—I do not think that it needs to be a royal commission. We are not short of people who could look at this issue for us; there are health foundations, such as the Nuffield Trust and the King's Fund."
Prior ignores the fact that the Kings Fund has already recently carried out an inquiry, the Barker Review, which rejected user charges and called instead for more taxes to pay for healthcare, in particular through a review of inheritance tax and national insurance increases.
Both of which George Osborne has just cut, of course.
So Prior orders another inquiry, this time using people he has chosen and presumably people who will produce the desired result. Such a fundamental inquiry should involve the public and be held in public, but it appears Prior does not want the public involved.
Is Prior, in announcing an inquiry into so fundamental an issue, acting above his paygrade as an unelected junior health minister?
And are we being nudged towards an inefficient, unfair 'pay NHS' in the only way possible – undemocratically?
Government proposes inquiry into moving to a 'pay NHS' [Richard Grimes/Opendemocracy]