Con-Dems’ lethal policies threaten health service

Hands off the NHS!

Terry Pearce, Save Heatherwood Hospital campaign, personal capacity
Marching against NHS cuts and privatisation , photo Paul Mattsson

Marching against NHS cuts and privatisation , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Under cover of the Christmas break, the government slipped out two lethal policies for the National Health Service. When taken alongside other features of the Health and Social Care Bill, they will speed up the rush towards the privatisation of the NHS.

Firstly the announcement that up to 49% of work in hospitals will be private is a clear indication that a two-tier system of treatment is envisaged. Increasing numbers of beds in hospitals will be taken up by private patients, limiting access for NHS patients.

The second threat was announced by Mike Farrer, head of the NHS Confederation. He said that at least one in four patients would be better off being treated by NHS staff at home. In other words three million patients, instead of being treated in fully equipped and staffed hospitals, will be treated at home by an under-funded and under-resourced community health sector.

Of course some treatment at home makes sense, but this plan is all about finding the £20 billion cuts to the NHS budget that the Con-Dem coalition is forcing through.

From top to bottom the government is preparing the NHS for fragmentation and privatisation. Primary Care Trusts are being replaced by Clinical Consortiums dominated by general practitioners who are both commissioners and providers of health care, a clear conflict of interest. They will be responsible for £80 billion of health expenditure which will inevitably open the door to rapacious private health companies.

Privatisation is a disaster in the field of social care, with the scandal of Southern Cross and their 750 care homes.

With no regulation and profit being the only motive, vulnerable people became victims to the whims of the market.

If they get away with this we will see a similar situation develop elsewhere in the NHS, with hospitals closing and chunks of the service swallowed up by the private sector.

In my area, Bracknell, the fight is on to save our local hospital, Heatherwood. In spite of the popularity of the hospital, local health bosses are determined to see it closed and replaced with a privately financed, built and run Healthspace. This Healthspace will have very limited facilities and will be run by the Clinical Consortium.

This is all part of the drive to provide so called ‘care in the community’ on a shoestring. And it will mean local patients having to travel long distances for hospital treatment if we lose the fight to save Heatherwood.

2012 must be the year we step up the fight to save the NHS. We need a united campaign involving health trade unions, patients, anti-cuts groups and health professionals. Locally we have already collected over 16,000 names on our petition to save Heatherwood Hospital.

The battle to defend the NHS is part of the wider fight to oppose all cuts, defend pensions, oppose job losses in the public and private sectors and the need build a new political opposition to this rotten coalition government.