Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/209/8541
Profit From Illness scandal
Kick The Private Profiteers Out Of The NHS
PRIVATE GOOD, public bad. The mantra of New Labour throughout this election. Health minister Alan Milburn has boldly declared that all new hospitals in England and Wales will be built with private money. Health workers in Dundee can tell you what this means.
By a Dundee health worker
On 29 May psychiatric beds were transferred from the publicly funded NHS trust to The Carseview Centre, a Private Finance Initiative (PFI)-funded 83-bed unit.
For 25 years a private company - Jarvis Healthcare - will provide the building where all in-patient care will be.
We've been in less than a week and already senior managers are having emergency meetings as problems mount up. Trusting a company that, although building relatively cheaply, had never built a hospital before has been a serious mistake.
We were promised a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility but we have a building where doors don't close, windows don't open, lights don't go off, the water isn't safe to drink, the plumbing always breaks and our alarms aren't reliable.
This list of maladies is only from my unit, the 12-bed intensive care ward. The pleasant external structure hides the fact that this bold new step into the future is unsafe in crucial areas to psychiatric care. Trust managers have transferred beds to a site under construction.
Beyond the problems providing a safe therapeutic environment for patient care, staff are also experiencing problems in working practice and working conditions. There is no canteen for staff or patients, so no hot food except from the £1-a-time pot noodle machine. Car parking for staff costs £220 a year.
NHS porters and cleaners who were promised transfers to the new unit have been replaced by private contractors.
What could be privatised has been. Ancillary staff are paid at a lower rate, expected to do more and untrained in day-to-day dealings with psychiatric patients.
In a recent visit to oversee the mayhem, two days after we moved, my chief executive referred to "teething problems that we all experience moving home"!
When I asked Jarvis at a pre-launch visit how much they will get paid over the lease, I was told that this question was not relevant as "existing budgets would cover the cost". Jarvis are no charity, they are here for profit and intend to make money. The free coffee machine was replaced by a pay-per-cup vending machine the day after our ward opened.
PFI annual leasing costs are anything up to 18%, compared to the treasury's 6% charge. Paying this lease will affect all other areas of psychiatric provision in Tayside. What trust board managers are calling our flagship may well be our Titanic.
The Socialist party fights to take healthcare away from big business by nationalising the private companies, including the pharmaceutical companies, that are leeching off the NHS.
Along with taking over and incorporating private medicine into the NHS, this would unlock the billions needed to rebuild the health service, free at the point of use.
Health management and medical services must be brought under the democratic control of patients, health workers and the wider community.
In The Socialist 9 June 2001: