Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Patchwork Privatisation Of The NHS

I have just been reading the excellent pamphlet by Alex Nunns for Keep Our NHS Public. This is a very useful "Users Guide" to what is happening to the Health Service in Britain. It is particularly useful to those of us who do not work in the NHS and so may not be aware of all the things that are happening across the service. It is written in very clear language with comprehensive references and footnotes. Well worth buying copies to give to friends, workmates, colleagues and activists - it can be ordered (details on the NHS Support Federation page linked above)for £1 each for the first 10 and 50p each subsequently.
From the NHS Support Federation page -

Executive summary

• The government is carrying out the ‘patchwork privatisation’ of the NHS. For the first time, this report presents a comprehensive picture of the many kinds of privatisation occurring in the health service. It provides indisputable evidence that a process of privatisation is in train.

• This is happening on such a scale and in so coordinated a way as to make it a unique phenomenon – the ‘patchwork privatisation’ of a major public concern.

• Unlike the Thatcher privatisations of the 1980s, the entire NHS is not being put up for auction – but historically this is only one manifestation of privatisation. The deregulation of state monopolies, the outsourcing of state responsibilities and the cessation of services are the forms of privatisation we see in the NHS today.

• The government is transforming the NHS from a comprehensive, equitable provider of healthcare into a tax-funded insurer, paying for care provided by others. What emerges will still be called the NHS, but it will take the form of a kite-mark attached to selected services.

• The government argues that while the health service remains free at the point of need, funded from taxation, it is still public. However, access does not determine whether a service is public. ITV is free for all to watch, but is clearly different from the BBC. Neither does public funding automatically translate into public service status. There are examples of private ventures that are publicly funded.

• The ‘patchwork privatisation’ of the NHS is deeply worrying because privatised healthcare tends to cost more; accountability suffers; the fog of ‘commercial confidentiality’ makes scrutinising public spending impossible; the profit motive encourages ‘cherry-picking’ of the lucrative work, ultimately leading to NHS services being cut.

Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Support Federation who provide offices and staff for the campaign are doing an excellent job but need ongoing financial support. To make a donation send cheques payable to Keep Our NHS Public to the NHS Support Federation, Community Base, 113 Queens Road, Brighton BN3XG.

There is a demonstration against local privatisation moves in the NHS in Brighton on 30th June, gathering on The Level at 12 noon.

The lack of movement in the unions on the National Demonstration for the NHS called by the Unison Health branch for 13th October in London is becoming a little worrying, if not entirely surprising given the union bureaucracies' desire not to rock the boat for the new New Labour Leadership. Meanwhile it has been "leaked" to the media that Mr Brown is keen on putting even further distance between his party and the unions. Comment and discussion on Dave Osler's blog.

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