Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/735/15306
Action needed to save NHS from privatisation
Tom Baldwin, Bristol Socialist Party
Jeremy Hunt, the new Tory health secretary, has been ridiculed for his belief in homeopathy. This is the idea that illness can be cured by a miniscule amount of what caused it.
But when it comes to the NHS, the Tories are doing exactly the opposite. Privatisation is a cancer eating away at our health service and now the government is lining up a lethal dose.
If they are able to implement it, the Health and Social Care Act will spell the end of a publicly owned and run health service in England.
With its provisions for health services to be bought from 'any willing provider' it paves the way for complete privatisation.
These private healthcare vultures put their profits first and patient care suffers. After cleaning services in the NHS were privatised the number of cleaners fell by half.
The resulting problems led many trusts to take cleaning back in-house but the government has not heeded the warning.
The ill effects of previous privatisation measures are already being felt. The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which ballooned under New Labour allows private companies to get their hands on NHS cash.
One such scheme, the expansion of Southmead hospital in Bristol, is costing taxpayers £2.1 billion over 30 years, more than three times what it cost to build. The cost of paying these debts is now driving other cuts.
It is one of the factors behind a proposed merger of NHS trusts that could see the A&E department at the Bristol Royal Infirmary close.
This would be a disaster for the city, leaving half a million people with access to just one A&E, far from the city centre.
Twenty NHS trusts in the south west of England have now spent £10,000 of taxpayers' money each to form a consortium to attack the pay and conditions of their staff.
Proposals include lengthening the working week and stopping sick pay for the first three days of illness.
Patients as well as staff will suffer if this attempt is successful. Imagine being treated by a snuffling, sneezing nurse because they can't afford to take the time off work.
Privatisation is both a cause and consequence of this attack. Breaking trade union national bargaining will make the NHS more appealing for companies that want to take over and further drive down pay.
Members of NHS trade unions have been lobbying trust boards against this. This campaigning now needs to be stepped up and industrial action should be considered as part of the wider struggle against austerity.
The Socialist Party is campaigning for an indicative ballot for regional strike action and a regional demo in the south west as urgent steps and for support for the TUC motion for a general strike.
Tom is a prospective Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in November's Bristol mayoral election.
The Observer revealed how Jeremy Hunt personally intervened to ensure that Virgin Care was able to take over the running of seven community hospitals in his constituency.
The Guardian reported that he wants to take on Christine Lineen, formerly head of communications at Circle Health as an 'advisor'.
Circle was awarded management of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire last year and is owned by companies and investment funds registered in tax havens.
In The Socialist 26 September 2012:
Fightback against austerity
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns