Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/168/7878
Stop the Health Rip-Off
o Bring the NHS back into the public sector, under democratic control
o Nationalise the phamaceutical and medical supplies industry
o A fully-funded NHS, free at the point of use
THE GOVERNMENT unveiled their plans to 'improve' the NHS this week. Central to their changes, they say, is the plan to bring 'patient power' into the health service.
But this could be a very peculiar version of patient power. To arrive at its conclusions the government asked Richard Branson's Virgin Group to tell it that hospitals were "not responsive to patients' needs" because of "shambolic management" and "stifling bureaucracy".
Why did the government pay £35,000 for this 'shattering' piece of information when thousands of patients had already complained about the appalling state of the NHS?
The government says it will guarantee that by 2005 no patient spends more than six months on a waiting list and that it will break down the old divisions. It described this latest blueprint as the biggest shake-up of the NHS since its inception.
It's clearly a shake-up but it won't bring patient power. Instead, the government wants to absolve itself of real responsibility for NHS treatment by handing out more functions to private contractors.
Rather than delivering quality change in the NHS the government is preparing to throw money hand over fist to private health care providers.
Hospitals are already being told to pay over the odds for private-sector critical illness beds next winter. The government's new initiatives also include an agreement with private hospitals to provide operations and beds to 'drive down' waiting lists.
Patients desperate for treatment will obviously accept treatment wherever it comes from. But all these new 'initiatives' will make the NHS even more of a private-sector conveyor belt. Hospitals will be like those in the USA, where turning the patients round quickly to reduce costs comes first, rather than quality of treatment.
Contracting out health provision to private companies has been a disaster. It means more public money going into the fat cats' pockets and less money for treatment.
This is not patient power, this is a private-sector parasites' paradise. A licence to print money out of our ill health.
We want proper patient power, where the NHS is brought fully back into the public sector and where the patients, staff and general public democratically make the decisions about how OUR health service is run.
In The Socialist 28 July 2000: