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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 March 2014

NHS - under attack from private vultures

Andy Bentley

The government has launched its biggest single privatisation of NHS services so far by inviting private companies to bid for 1.2 billion worth of contracts to provide frontline cancer treatment in district hospitals and care for the terminally ill across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

Private companies will compete to deliver cancer and end-of-life treatment for children and adults across the area - involving diagnosis and treatment such as radiology, radiotherapy, breast screening, chemotherapy, nursing and surgery for patients in hospitals, hospices and at home.

After the government and media's relentless four-year barr-age of largely untrue attacks on Stafford District Hospital they think the ground is well prepared to force through its first large scale privatisation of frontline NHS services in Staffordshire.

The government has also rushed through parliament an amendment to the Care Bill known as the 'Hospital Closure Clause' (HCC).

This allows unelected Trust Special Administrators who take over any 'failing' NHS Trusts in England to speed up closures or privatisation of nearby hospitals even if they are performing well.

So, conjuring up just one 'failing' hospital in every region would give the government the pretext to cut, close or privatise whatever they want nationwide.

But rushing the HCC through parliament also shows that the Con-Dems are still afraid of the opposition that these measures will face.

In response, Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health spokesperson, said: "David Cameron has placed the NHS on a fast track to fragmentation and privatisation. The next election presents the last chance to change course."

But we cannot afford to wait for a general election hoping that Labour will save the NHS. The last Labour government saddled the NHS with a total of 215 billion of repayments for big business projects worth only 55-65 billion.

And decisive action is needed now to stop the government's latest privatisation plans.

Last year, 50,000 marched through Stafford against the government's plans to dismantle Stafford District Hospital, followed months later by over 1,500 at the first of six sham public consultation meetings.

This opposition, along with tens of thousands marching in Lewisham and elsewhere, gives a glimpse of the massive anger which exists nationwide against the crusade of closures and privatisation of the NHS, as did last year's trade union organised demonstration at the Tory conference.

It is now more urgent than ever that a plan of action is drawn up by the health trade unions, other unions, local communities, campaign groups, etc, against the dismantling and privatisation of the NHS, including strike action and standing 'no cuts' candidates in the May elections.

Such a campaign would receive the support of millions across Britain, have the potential to stop the privatisation juggernaut in its tracks and herald the end of this government even before the next general election.

It would also be a warning to any incoming government to keep their hands off the NHS.

The Socialist Party is calling for;

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In The Socialist 13 March 2014:


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