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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2010

Warning: NHS under attack: Organise action to fight all cuts

Death and privatisation in the NHS, photo Paul Mattsson

Death and privatisation in the NHS, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

THIS CABINET of millionaires plans to sound the death knell for the NHS. Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley said his proposals would bring 'power to the people' with control of most NHS spending in England transferring to "family doctors." This is nonsense. Power is being transferred to private companies in the NHS's largest ever rash of privatisation.

Roger Shrives

Just look at Lansley's plans for GP and hospital services. He wants 80% of the NHS budget to be businesses run by groups of GPs. But most GP practices are busy places, dealing with their priorities - treating patients' illnesses.

Even if they form 'consortia', as government ministers suggest, how many of Britain's 35,000 GPs have the time or the knowhow to operate budgets totalling millions of pounds?

Multinationals

But adverts will soon be winging their way to every doctors' surgery from private health care 'experts' who claim they do know how. These private health and insurance multinationals, like United Health, Bupa and Humana, who already have a foothold in the health service, will charge GPs and the NHS for their knowledge. And they will invite in their private sector mates for a share of the profits.

The Financial Times says the market for administering the NHS budget "could grow at least tenfold from its current 50 million a year". Private health firm Tribal welcomes the "denationalisation of healthcare services in England".

Profits first

In this capitalist market, profit comes before health. The needs of private health firms and expensive Harley Street doctors will be paramount. What happens to public control and accountability? Privatisation measures in the NHS such as PFI have already proved an expensive waste of money.

Now they are clearly a threat to thousands of jobs (including 10,000 frontline jobs according to the Royal College of Nursing) and millions of people's services as a private-dominated NHS increasingly cherry-picks easier, more profitable cases.

It was the strength of the working class that created the NHS. Now, that strength must be mobilised to defend the health service against this attack through mass campaigns by the trade unions involving patients, service users and the general public.

National demo

The Socialist Party supports the call by the PCS civil servants' union, with the support of others, for the TUC to organise, as soon as possible, a mass national demonstration against the Con-Dem government's attacks as an urgent first step. The slogans of this demo must include opposition to the attacks on the NHS, defence of jobs and public services and no to all cuts and privatisation.

Such a demonstration would express the anger and opposition to cuts felt by hundreds of thousands of people. It could also prepare the way for further mass action, including generalised strike action.

As we go to print it appears that the TUC leadership has not taken the initiative to launch such a campaign. If this is so, left-led unions need to call a national demo.

At the same time pressure must be applied to the TUC by supporting the National Shop Stewards Network's call for a lobby of the TUC in September.

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In The Socialist 21 July 2010:

Warning: NHS under attack


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Socialist Party Marxist analysis

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