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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 April 2013

NHS: What we say

The Con-Dems' Health and Social Care Act (England) ends the government's duty to provide comprehensive free healthcare and removes the NHS from parliamentary control.

Primary care trusts will be replaced by 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that will decide who to treat, who provides the treatment and what is free at the point of delivery.

Private companies will bid for CCG contracts. With further NHS finance cuts ahead, we are likely to see the restriction of free care.

Already, under Tory, New Labour and Con-Dem governments, we have seen the privatisation of most non-medical and some medical services in the NHS, with horrific results for both patients and health workers.

The trade union movement needs to organise a massive national campaign to fight these changes and all cuts and privatisation in the NHS.

The Socialist Party demands:

Wales NHS: Different government - worse cuts!

By 2014-15 spending on healthcare in Wales per head of population will be lower than in any other area of the UK. 1 billion has already been cut from the NHS Wales budget since 2005.

The NHS budget has been ring-fenced in England, with small annual increases, even though these represent a cut in real terms.

The NHS in Wales has been given no such protection. Welsh Labour has actually chosen the NHS to bear the brunt of austerity cuts in Wales.

Healthcare: The 'nasty party' just got nastier

The 'nasty party' just got nastier after Tory PM David Cameron defended government plans to make trainee nurses first work as health assistants to improve patient care.

Cameron ignores the fact that trainee nurses already spend 50% of their time in clinical areas. In reality he is trying to lay the blame for problems in the NHS on over-worked, underpaid and stressed out health workers.

The Tories 'big idea' is meant to prevent a repetition of the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust scandal when hundreds of patients needlessly died between 2004 and 2008.

Nowhere in the Francis report into the Mid Staffs crisis is there any recommendation of this Tory plan.

Moreover, the main cause of patient neglect there was the drive to achieve self-governing Foundation Trust (FT) status by NHS managers making staffing cuts, against a backdrop of PFI (privatisation) acquired debt.

In fact, despite existing nursing shortages, managers at Mid Staffs announced 160 redundancies in 2006. They also proposed reducing the proportion of trained nurses to health assistants on wards.

But Labour, which introduced FTs, doesn't come out of this smelling of roses. Patient care concerns raised by trade unionists in the Trust back in 2005 were ignored and the current 20-30 billion of NHS "efficiency savings" ie cuts, were initiated under the last Labour government.

These cuts have resulted in fewer nursing staff having to cope with many patients. This dire situation was highlighted in a recent survey by the health union Unison.

It showed that 45% of health workers were looking after eight or more patients on their shift. Looking after this number increases the risk of patient harm.

Nearly 60% of staff said they did not have enough time to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate patient care.

Yet the government continues to ignore a key recommendation of the Francis report - the introduction of minimum staff to patient ratios.

In brief

Scary Act

When the government's Health Bill was being piloted through parliament earlier this year Jeremy Hunt, health minister, denied that the handing out of health contracts by the newly established clinical commissioning groups (CCGs - which control a 65 billion annual budget) would amount to a privatisation charter. Such talk he said was "scaremongering".

To deflect criticism, Hunt said that regulations attached to the bill, which forced NHS trusts to ask private companies to bid for every service even if commissioners were satisfied with public sector providers, would be rewritten.

However, it seems that the new regulations, currently going through the House of Lords, say essentially the same thing!

Gold diggers

Even though a majority of health workers and the public opposed the new Health and Social Care Act it's clear that private health vultures are eagerly anticipating getting their talons on the NHS's multi-billion pound budget.

According to the British Medical Journal over one-third (426) of doctors in executive positions on the new CCGs have a financial interest in a for-profit provider beyond their own general practice.

The Journal reports: "In some cases, the majority of GPs on the CCG governing body had financial interests in the same private healthcare provider.

"Although some doctors have relinquished interests in private enterprises because of their new roles as commissioners, the BMJ found that in total, 555 (23%) of 2,426 governing body members - including all clinical, lay, and managerial representatives - have a financial stake in a for-profit company."

Corporate backers

To most people this new commissioning set-up clearly represents a blatant 'conflict of interests', but to corporate fat cats it's a handsome reward for bankrolling the Tory party.

Overall, the 'nasty party' has been given more than 10 million from those with links to private health.

Drug dealers

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been accused of buying off competitors to maintain its dominance in the health drugs market.

The Office of Fair Trading called GSK's action between 2001 and 2004 market "abuse" after Alpharma, Generics UK and Norton Healthcare all received money not to enter the market with their copies of GSK's anti-depressant Seroxat drug.

Pay-for-delay deals are illegal in the UK. Maintaining market dominance allows a company to charge higher prices and increase profits while the introduction of generic drugs can massively cut the price bill for the NHS.

Clearly, nationalising big pharma would save millions of pounds for cash strapped healthcare services.

National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN)

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Needed: a strategy to stop the destruction of the NHS

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In The Socialist 24 April 2013:

Anti-bedroom tax

Stop the bedroom tax - Hands off our homes!

Organise to bin the bedroom tax

Waltham Forest victims of bedroom tax are 'up for a fight'

Socialist Party NHS news and campaigns

Stafford hospital: Massive march in support of NHS

United show of opposition to NHS cuts in Dewsbury

NHS: What we say

International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Workers and Socialist Party

Socialist Party news and analysis

Break with Thatcher's legacy! - Socialist policies needed

Stop Gove hacking our school hols

Times Rich List: Super-rich get richer ... again

Why we're standing against cuts

20 years after murder of Stephen Lawrence

Scottish TUC supports 24-hour general strike against austerity

Edmund Schluessel elected to NUS executive

Caste discrimination: MPs side with oppressors not oppressed

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Angry workers protest outside Ford's UK headquarters

The battle goes on at Thera

Usdaw: End the partnership!

Workplace news in brief

The Socialist; readers' comments

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Responding to distortions about Liverpool's socialist council

May Day

May Day 8-page greetings supplement


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