Cameron’s government is destroying the National Health Service by privatising huge swathes of it. Last year Simon Stephens was appointed chief executive of NHS England. Stephens used to run US health insurance company UnitedHealth’s European arm.

This firm wanted to take over parts of the NHS that were being hit by public sector cuts. Now their man is in charge of the NHS.

UnitedHealth are part of a forum of companies bidding for the clinical commissioning groups that are responsible for two-thirds of the NHS budget for purchasing patient care.

Cuts and privatisation are ruining the health service. NHS privatisation makes no medical sense. Figures comparing health services show that publicly owned and controlled systems, which the NHS is still at present, are more efficient in cost and in health terms.

The machinations of big business and capitalist politicians are threatening the NHS at all levels – they must be fought by the health trade unions and the workers’ movement.

We say:

  • No to Con-Dem attacks on the NHS! No to all cuts in jobs, pay, services and pensions
  • Don’t let the private vultures tear apart the health service – kick out the private contractors!
  • Renationalise all privatised services with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need.
  • We need a socialist NHS that provides for everyone’s health needs – free at the point of use and under democratic control.

The People's March for the NHS reaches Bolsover, photo by Elaine Evans

The People’s March for the NHS reaches Bolsover, photo by Elaine Evans   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Support the people’s march

Jon Dale

Many local people turned out to welcome the People’s March for the NHS as it came through the East Midlands. About 200 welcomed the march into Chesterfield and a similar number at Mansfield the following day. 600 met the march arriving in Nottingham.

Noreen, a retired postal worker from Mansfield, said she’d felt for a long time that “something needed to be done.” When she read about the march, she decided she had to join, and planned to keep going for a few days.

The People's March for the NHS rallies in Bolsover, photo by Elaine Evans

The People’s March for the NHS rallies in Bolsover, photo by Elaine Evans   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Other local marchers also shared this view. Action is desperately needed and they were glad of the chance to show their anger at the destruction of the NHS.

At each rally, Labour MPs and council leaders pledged support for the NHS and promised to “take it back.” Such talk is meaningless unless they disown the record of the last Labour government and stop carrying out cuts. As a local GMB official told the Socialist, “That government built the bridge that this one is marching across.”

At Kings Mill hospital in Mansfield, as the march prepared to leave my workplace, I spoke to the crowd and was applauded for attacking the last Labour government that brought in the PFI deal, draining the hospital of vital funds.

Tories launch biggest privatisation with Stafford cancer care

Andy Bentley

The Tories have launched the biggest single privatisation of NHS services, inviting private companies to bid for contracts worth £1.2 billion to provide cancer care across Staffordshire. Private companies would compete to deliver cancer and end-of-life treatment for all – involving diagnosis and treatment (radiology, radiotherapy, breast screening, chemotherapy) nursing and surgery for patients in hospitals, hospices and at home.

We need action now to defend the NHS from these private vultures! Ordinary working class people had to fight to win a publicly owned NHS, now we have to fight to save it!

As news of the Tories’ plan broke last March Labour ministers showed resigned acceptance. 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.”

Labour’s recent promise to repeal the Health and Social Care act is a step in the right direction. But we cannot trust Labour with the NHS’s future even if they form the next government. The coalition government’s current £20 billion ‘savings’ imposed on the NHS actually arose from Labour’s plans.

Former Labour health secretaries Alan Milburn and Patricia Hewitt have earned tens of thousands of pounds a year advising firms specialising in healthcare investments, running private hospitals or providing outsourced services.

Foundation Trusts

To become a Foundation Trust in 2005, Stafford Hospital had to comply with financial targets set by the then Labour government. This meant ‘overcoming’ a debt of £10 million while forking out more money on a private finance initiative (PFI) deal to build a new entrance. Workers paid for this with 160 job losses in 2006 on top of 100 already been cut. This proved to be a disaster for some patients.

The last Labour government saddled the NHS with £65 billion of repayments for big business PFI projects worth only £11.4 billion with Andy Burnham telling us at the time that they were: “the right schemes and offer value for money”!

Supporters of Staffordshire Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) along with Unite and others set up the Cancer Not for Profit (CNFP) alliance which has had a significant impact in just three months. Stoke South Labour MP Rob Flello has been pushed into saying in July: “This project must be stopped because it represents a massive extension of the creeping privatisation”.

More importantly 10,000 people who have already said no to the sell-off by signing the CNFP petition along with 300 people who crammed into a CNFP public meeting in August in Stoke looking for a way to stop the sell-off of cancer care across Staffordshire.

Last year 50,000 marched through Stafford against Tory plans to dismantle Stafford Hospital. The fight goes on with a protest camp now well established at Stafford Hospital. This opposition along with tens of thousands marching in Lewisham and elsewhere, health workers striking in Doncaster etc shows the massive anger nationwide at NHS privatisation.

But isolated protests and anger alone will not stop the privatisation juggernaut. It’s now urgent that a plan of action is drawn up nationally by the health trade unions, other unions, local communities and campaign groups to plan and carry out an organised campaign against the dismantling and privatisation of the NHS, including strike action if necessary.

We should call for an end to all privatisation, including the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) along with a return of privatised NHS services and utilities into a high-quality, free National Health Service under democratic public ownership and control. Such a campaign would receive support from millions across Britain.

We could stop the privatisation crusade and get rid of this government even before the next general election. It would also be a warning to any incoming government to keep the private vultures out of the NHS.