Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/354/5846
What We Think
New Labour Privatising By Choice
"THERE IS no point Egon Ronay producing a guide to restaurants if all the tables are fully booked" was the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), James Johnson's, comment on New Labour's proposal to allow us all the choice of five different hospital waiting lists.
The government's nauseating claim that 'choice' will improve the health service is enough to make anyone sick. The reality, as a resolution to the BMA conference states, is that this is all about encouraging "the creeping privatisation of healthcare".
In fact privatisation has been "creeping" rapidly up the body of the NHS for years, but now threatens to entirely engulf it.
The NHS was one of the great achievements of the 1945 Labour government. New Labour is systematically destroying it. The basic premise of the NHS - that free, high quality, health care should be available to all - is being rapidly eroded.
Major multi-nationals are already making a mint out of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Around £1 billion in profits has been accrued just by refinancing PFI initiatives with the banks at more favourable rates and pocketing the cash!
Yet at the same time, the extra cost of private (as opposed to public) sector borrowing means that PFI costs the public purse an average of 40% more than the same hospital would if it was built in the public sector.
In other words, PFI results in a direct money transfusion from our services into the pockets of big business.
And now, New Labour is attempting to dramatically expand privatisation of the NHS with the introduction of foundation hospitals and privately run Direct Treatment Centres (DTCs).
In December 2002, the Department of Health claimed these would, "deliver value for money through robust, competitive tendering." The truth is very different. A leaked Department of Health memo has revealed that, for example, each cataract operation will cost £115 more than it does on the NHS, not least because the surgeons performing it will be paid £500,000 a year!
It is therefore no surprise that the architect of DTCs has just left Blair's employ to become vice-president of the United Health Group, a $28 billion US corporation who specialise in the kind of care the government is tendering out!
New Labour claims it is unrealistic to provide people with a decent local hospital capable of meeting their needs. Yet they say that the government has no choice but to spend £4.2 million a day on the occupation of Iraq.
We choose not to accept such Alice in Wonderland logic. We fight for the rebuilding of the NHS, for an immediate end to privatisation and a reversal of all the privatisation already introduced.
In The Socialist 3 July 2004:
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