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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 November 2013

Drive the profit vultures out of our NHS

Dave Reid
Demonstration against NHS cuts at Whipps Cross hospital, East London 21 September 2013, photo Paul Mattsson

Demonstration against NHS cuts at Whipps Cross hospital, East London 21 September 2013, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The vultures are no longer circling our National Health Service (NHS). They have swooped in and are tearing it apart. Billions of pounds in profits are being bled from the NHS by private healthcare companies, contractors and drug companies.

Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group and Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group have both been reported to Monitor, the health regulator, by private health company Spire, for not sending enough NHS patients to Spire's private hospital in Fylde.

Instead, Blackpool's GPs have been treating some patients themselves and depriving Spire of its guaranteed revenue stream in neurology and orthopaedics.

The facts that using this primary care is best for patients and saves the NHS money matter not one jot to Spire, which is solely concerned with its bottom line.

While NHS trusts and health boards struggle with cuts in funding by laying-off nurses, doctors and vital ancillary workers, billions of pounds are being bled out of the NHS by private profiteers.

And any attempt to keep services in-house by the NHS in England is being thwarted by referrals to Monitor, which is charged with preventing "anti-competitive behaviour" in the NHS.

The private health companies have prepared squads of competition lawyers to force Clinical Commissioning Groups to spend scarce NHS funds on their companies. Even collaboration between services in different Trusts is being banned as "anti-competitive".

And while benefiting from public health spending, the private health companies resent making any contribution towards it - they are very 'tax efficient'.

Owned by private equity group Cinven, Spire made an operating profit of 130 million in 2012 but avoided paying any tax on it because it declared a loss after repaying loans to another company also owned by Cinven!

The NHS is caught in a triple whammy by all three pro-capitalist parties. The Tories and Liberal Democrats created a systematic privatisation of the NHS when the Health and Social Care Act was passed. Three-quarters of new NHS services have been tendered out to private healthcare companies.

Labour has promised to repeal the act but not to end private competition in the NHS.

A Labour government would not end the purchaser-provider split and bring Foundation Trusts back into a publicly owned NHS; so the health service will still be liable to competition law and at the mercy of the competition lawyers.

And in Wales, Labour is showing the Tories the way to close A&E units by cutting them down to just four or five for the whole of South Wales.

The Welsh Labour government has backed Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in sacking over 300 nurses and other health workers to balance the books even though waiting lists are getting longer and longer.

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