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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 January 2011

Warning: Government health 'reforms' can seriously damage your health

Defend Whittington Hospital Campaign demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson

Defend Whittington Hospital Campaign demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

'EQUITY AND Excellence: Liberating the NHS'... so benevolently named is the government's car crash of a health bill which is going through parliament, that frankly there should be a health warning attached to it!

Jackie Grunsell

The name hides a devastating array of proposals which, if accepted, will see the destruction of the NHS as a health system.

No longer will it provide care, nationally planned, to meet the needs of each individual, without basing that on their ability to pay.

Instead it is to be replaced by a fragmented set of different health care providers competing to deliver care to another set of different commissioners, jostling to buy the services their particular patients need, with an ever-decreasing pot of money with which to do this.

The central principle of the bill is that 'any willing provider' can supply the services, including profit-making health corporations like United Health.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) will be abolished from 2013 to be replaced by groups of GPs organised into groups called 'consortia'.

The government expects this will reduce spending on 'bureaucracy'. However the British Medical Journal estimates the cost of restructuring will be 2-3 billion for which extra funding is not being provided.

They claim GPs are best placed to make decisions about the needs of their patients.

While GPs are often very good at assessing the needs of their own practice populations they are not trained in public health nor do they generally have an overview of the health needs of an entire town or city, let alone a region or country as a whole.

Even if they did, on the basis of a reduction in NHS funding in real terms, GPs will simply end up being the ones who decide which services will be cut or rationed.

Of course it's inevitable that GP consortia will employ others to do their 'management' for them, a role for which private companies are champing at the bit. Control of the NHS's 100+ billion budget is the prize they've had their eyes on for some time.

Every NHS trust will become a foundation trust by 2013, taking it out of state control. When these trusts will no longer have a cap on how much they can earn from private patients, it's easy to see how NHS patients, not paying directly for care, could end up at the back of the queue.

What little accountability existed in the NHS is to be stripped away. There has been no public consultation on the government's proposals despite the fact that less than half of doctors think the government's plans will improve patient care.

The top-down drive to promote a market-driven health service will actually risk increasing the inequality in health between rich and poor. Those needing unprofitable, highly specialised or expensive treatments may well be asked to pay, or at least 'top-up' the funding available on the NHS.

Fortunately all health service trade unions seem to be united in their opposition to the government's plans. Of course, words are not enough when it comes to the very future of our NHS. Action is needed now before it's too late.

Health unions need to unite in organising industrial action against this attack. They should fight alongside community groups campaigning to defend services and come together to coordinate a national campaign to defend our NHS.

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In The Socialist 26 January 2011:


Socialist Party youth and students

Fight for jobs and education

Where next for the student movement?

Education Maintenance Allowance days of action 18 and 19 January

No to sky-high youth unemployment!


Socialist Party news and analysis

Warning: Government health 'reforms' can seriously damage your health

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Food price hikes fuelling unrest

Fight the Con-Dem 'bosses' charter'

RMT leader slams anti-union laws

Marching against council cuts


Socialist Party workplace news

Hampshire: Battling to defend jobs

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BA workers vote to fight on

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National Shop Stewards Network

NSSN anti-cuts campaign launched

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) conference


International socialist news and analysis

Irish government collapses: United Left Alliance offers real alternative

Tunisia: Protesters demand real democracy and social change

50 years ago: Congo's independence leader assassinated


Socialist Party schools features

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Save Our Schools

Bankers' "Free school" excludes poorer pupils


Socialist Party review

Britain's Banks: Too Big to Save?


Comment

Three decades of 'reform' and 'flexibility'

Stop the mental health service cuts


 

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