Following the House of Lords’ vote in favour of keeping the revised section 75 regulations contained in Health and Social Care Act 2012, it seems that the future of health care in England seems likely to lie with EU competition law and in the hands of lawyers. Opponents of the regulations now fear that the NHS is on an irreversible path towards privatisation.
The controversial regulations go to the heart of the coalition government’s determination to open up the English NHS to competition. Without section 75, regardless of its wording, the Act is pointless. New Labour is as culpable as the coalition government in bringing the NHS to this sorry pass, since it laid the foundations for the government’s plans, which are being imposed on the NHS against the wishes of most of those who work in it, and large sections of the public who own and use it.
An intriguing question is why governments of all political hues are so fixated on markets and competition, especially in the face of all the evidence which finds them wanting. Why do our political leaders blindly pay homage to those who claim that the NHS can only benefit from a dose of marketization?
Have they forgotten the very reasons for establishing the NHS in 1948? Have these reasons disappeared, or become irrelevant with the passage of time? Is there no public interest case to be argued and defended which would seek to restrict market entry into health care?
This opinion piece looks at why governments of all political hues are fixated on markets and competition and runs through the current state of the evidence around the limits to markets in health care.