Sunday, 18 July 2010

The NHS is not for sale

Andrew Lansley, the Conservative Health Minister, has blown the trumpet call for the privatization of the National Health Service. Using the fear that has been well-stoked by the ConDem government, a major attack on the principles of free health care in the UK has been announced. Without an ounce of shame, Lansley declared a complete dismissal of the promises made by both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats during the general election campaign. In other words, no-one voted for this but the government wishes to do it anyway.

After 13 years of New Labour changes in the NHS, including creeping privatization, the very last thing needed was a new re-organization. Lansley has confirmed that General Practitioner (GP) practices will be expected to take on planning and commissioning of health care over the next four years, thus removing the role of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in planning.

Dr Kay Phillips, a practicing GP and National Chair of the Respect Party, was not impressed by the changes. 'GPs are trained in clinical diagnosis not financial planning or management. Most GPs do not want to be finance managers; they just want to be left to treat patients. This re-organization will put GPs at the forefront of making cuts and bringing in private companies.'

'We have suffered 13 years of Labour government meddling in the NHS that has led to partial privatization and cost huge amounts of money. Now, the ConDems want to drive this ideological attack on the NHS further. The basic fact is that they hate the idea of a state run, free health service at the point of use. Drug companies see big profits from breaking up the NHS and the ConDems do their bidding.'

The plans amount to an invitation to privatization by making GPs form companies and tender out NHS services. With the break-up of a national service, the pensions and national pay bargaining of NHS staff will be destroyed.

An illustration of the cost of bringing the private sector to healthcare is that Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) has saddled the British people with £200 billion of debt in the form of repayments to private contractors, according to the Office of National Statistics. Another is the recent revelation that £26 million was handed to a private company by Greater Manchester PCTs for operations that were not performed. This occurred because of a contract for 9,000 operations between 2005 and 2009.

Naturally, Andrew Lansley has huge experience of the lives of the poorest in our society for whom free health care is essential. He went to a private school, Brentwood, and worked as a senior civil servant for Norman Tebbit. His qualifications for dealing with health include his claims that obesity will be increased by seeing obese people and stating in 2008 the recession would be good as more people would spend time with their families. What a shame he has not taken his own advice.

The Respect Party believes this is a completely unnecessary attack motivated by free market fundamentalism in the government. We welcome the declared opposition of the major trade unions in the NHS, UNITE and UNISON. These unworkable and destructive plans can and must be stopped.