Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/295/13966
Privatising The NHS
NEW LABOUR'S latest scheme for health service privatisation - Foundation Hospitals - is being pushed ahead in spite of significant opposition from the parliamentary Labour Party's own ranks.
These plans will allow hospitals who score well on the current performance tables to raise their own funding and sell their services on the open market. Already 32 NHS trusts from all over England have expressed an interest in the foundation idea.
UNISON has identified the scheme as backdoor privatisation and even the British Medical Association condemns the plans as leading to a two-tier health service.
Under the scheme hospitals can not only raise their own funds but keep any proceeds from the sale of hospital land or other assets. They can set their own clinical and financial priorities and are expected to set their own pay and conditions for staff.
It is easy to see how such hospitals could drain resources from other local hospitals and then opt-out of inconveniently expensive NHS targets. In the dash to build up operating surpluses quickly, there will be pressure to cut costs by, for example, discharging patients earlier, putting pressure on community services.
Foundation Hospitals will be able to sell off any service to private companies and there would be nothing in principle to stop private hospitals becoming Foundation Hospitals. And if it all goes wrong, like for the private rail companies, it will be public money bailing the hospitals out.
Legislation is likely to be put to parliament after Easter.
UNISON health conference has voted by 60:40 to put a plan to pilot the Agenda For Change pay restructuring scheme out to ballot.
In The Socialist 12 April 2003: