Blair’s market madness wrecking the NHS

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   Nurses on the RCN-organised lobby of
parliament on 11 May

BECAUSE OF New Labour’s attacks on the NHS, hospital Trusts are
threatening to sack health workers, cut beds and close down wards.
Around 13,000 jobs have already been placed at risk, including 1,000 at
the NHS Direct helpline. The government is trying to push the problems
their crazy market system has caused onto the shoulders of health
workers and the sick and elderly.

Jon Dale, Bolsover Socialist Party

One example is the deprived areas of Langwith, Creswell and Normanton
in Derby, which are guinea pigs in Labour’s plan to privatise primary
health care – services run from GP surgeries and health centres. One of
the world’s largest health corporations, US-based United Health Group,
has been awarded the contract to provide these services.

It doesn’t have a scrap of experience of primary care in Britain, let
alone in areas with widespread poverty and chronic ill-health. It has no
staff, no local knowledge, no local support.

Yet they beat off 17 other bidders and well-respected local GPs
weren’t even short-listed. Blair’s former health adviser, Simon Stevens,
is president of United Health’s European subsidiary. As one local
resident said at a recent meeting: "It stinks!"

The $16 billion corporation has little interest in Langwith and
probably won’t make much money there. For them the big prize is a head
start in bidding for control of the budgets of Primary Care Trusts, that
pay for hospital treatments.

These are worth hundreds of millions of pounds in every county and
city. If United Health get their claws in that, they could direct
spending to treatment centres they own and away from NHS hospitals. They
could cut expensive care for the chronically sick, concentrating on
simple and potentially profitable treatments like elective surgery and
patients will get treatment based not on their needs, but on
shareholders’ interests.

Keep Our NHS Public

130 angry people were at the Keep Our NHS Public meeting in Langwith
where speaker John Lister welcomed health campaigner and Socialist Party
member Jackie Grunsell’s victory in the Huddersfield council election.
Along with victories for health campaigners in Kidderminster, he said:
"When people get a choice they’re voting strongly for candidates
that support the NHS."

In a passionate defence of the NHS founding principles, that
treatment should be available to all no matter where they lived or how
much money they had, local GP Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, said, "To
dismember the NHS limb by limb is an act of social vandalism."

Socialist Party member Brian Loader reported that the health service
supplier NHS Logistics was being handed over to a private consortium –
DHL/Novation. Workers were being balloted for industrial action. A
national NHS demonstration would unite all the different campaigns up
and down the country and give NHS workers confidence to fight this

Derek Lambley, who organised a local Anti-Poll Tax Union 16 years
ago, said: "We filled coaches and took people down to London and
beat Thatcher. We should do it again now to save the NHS."

NEARLY 80% of people in Britain don’t trust Blair and New Labour to
safeguard the NHS. Only 22% think the service will get better over the
next few years, while 45% believe it will get worse, according to a
recent Deloitte opinion poll.