Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/464/1737
Public health not private profit
Build a national fightback now!
March to TUC NHS lobby of parliament calling for a national demonstration in 2006, photo Paul Mattsson
NATIONAL HEALTH Service chiefs have told hospital trusts that they can start advertising for patients. This is a new stage in the 'marketisation' of the NHS. The prospect of an 'advert war' looms as hospitals have to compete with each other for patients.
By advertising, the NHS is mimicking the private health sector. A massive £1 billion is paid to the private sector for NHS treatments - that's roughly equal to the overall deficit across the NHS. However, surveys of treatments done in Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) show that this private sector under-performs and is no cure for an under-resourced NHS.
A Commons select committee found that if the money wasted on ISTCs had been invested in the NHS, it would have been a more efficient and cheaper option. Within the NHS, that investment would have helped improve patient care for the long term, instead of just boosting shareholders' profits.
NHS hospitals are already forced to compete with each other through the 'market reform' of 'payment by results'. NHS funding follows the patient. Previously, hospitals were paid in advance, en bloc, for treatments carried out. Now they are paid in arrears for each individual treatment. This has been a major factor in destabilising hospital funding and the build-up of huge deficits.
This marketisation of NHS funding causes competition between hospitals. Those trusts that can attract funding may thrive. Those who can't will receive less funding, become run down and may eventually be forced to close.
Bringing the market into public services always leads to uneven funding and an unequal service. Chief executives and hospital managers will receive lucrative bonuses if they reach financial targets.
This could ignite an even bigger advertising war between hospitals, as NHS bosses move might and main to win their bonus. It also threatens cuts as chief executives try to protect their own earnings at the cost of services and staffing levels.
Advertising for patients would be another, very costly, nail in the coffin for a publicly funded, planned and resourced NHS that meets communities' needs. It must be resisted.
Local people are still struggling to defend their health services (see page 3). There are plans to give these local protests a national focus. On 2 December, the People United Saving Hospitals (PUSH) meeting in Nuneaton will unite activists to organise for a national day of action on 15 December and to step up the campaign for a national demonstration. Keep Our NHS Public (KONHSP) plans a national week of action for the last week of January.
Across the country cuts and ward closures are going on, many dressed up as modernising patient services. The movement against cuts must urgently step up the action.
The health trade union campaign NHS Together meets at the end of November. The unions at this meeting must call a national demonstration for early in the New Year. If they don't, national campaigns like PUSH and KONHSP must organise it instead. We can't wait any longer for a national fight-back, our NHS's future is at stake!
Rally for Socialism
Saturday 25 November, 6.30pm-9pm
Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1.
Speakers include: Len Hockey, Whipps Cross hospital UNISON joint branch secretary, (personal capacity).
Councillor Jackie Grunsell, Huddersfield Save Our NHS.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary PCS civil servants' union, (personal capacity). Tommy Sheridan, Solidarity MSP.
Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary.
This rally is part of Socialism2006, the Socialist Party's annual weekend of discussion and debate - 25/26 November.
Full programme see www.socialism2006.net
In The Socialist 22 November 2006:
New Socialist Party publication
The Socialist Interview
International socialist news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news