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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 June 2008

'Failed' hospitals, polyclinics

Stop the NHS sell-off!

On the

On the 'Save the NHS' march, 3 November 2007 , photo Paul Mattsson

WHETHER IT'S Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, New Labour's policy on the NHS remains the same - privatisation. The government took a further step in that direction recently with their announcement that any NHS hospital considered 'a failure' would in the future be run by a private company.

Roger Davey, chair Swindon and Wiltshire health care Unison branch, personal capacity

It's yet another move by the government to undermine the NHS and place our health care in the hands of ruthless multinational companies, more interested in profits than patients.

They may include companies such as United Health, Aetna and Humana, all organisations that have been repeatedly fined for their scandalous role in the US health service. Yet these firms have been approved by Labour health minister Alan Johnson to commission NHS services on our behalf. These companies will be all too eager to run our 'failing hospitals' and in the process make huge profits.

The government says that a hospital will be deemed to have 'failed' if it does not meet certain targets regarding quality, safety and finance. Of course we all know that, in reality, a hospital will be considered a 'failure' if it does not close enough beds, cut enough services and make redundant enough workers! The last thing this government seems concerned with is its failure to provide a free, planned, high-quality NHS service.

Before this decision, 'failing hospitals' were given a 'Turnaround Director', usually from the private sector, who would demand massive cuts in services. In our Wiltshire Primary Care Trust (PCT), under the direction of a Turnaround Director, who was paid hundreds of thousands, four community hospitals and casualty units were closed along with a maternity unit.

NHS demonstrations 3 March 2007, photo Paul Mattsson

NHS demonstrations 3 March 2007, photo Paul Mattsson

And yet after all this, the PCT is still in debt! No doubt a similar fate awaits any hospital taken over by these profit-hungry companies.

Of course Brown has said that neither the assets of the NHS, nor its staff, will be transferred to an incoming private company - only the board will be sacked. Yet it would be na´ve in the extreme to believe this was just about swapping managers. The fact is that even if the companies don't own the assets they will still exercise total control over them, and will have ample opportunity to rip off the NHS.

Moreover, it's only a small step from controlling the assets to actually owning them, a move that would flow logically from every New Labour health reform.

In fact, this is all about switching NHS funds and services from the NHS to the private sector. Since Labour came to power, we have had the introduction of private treatment centres, providing selective profitable care, autonomous foundation hospitals that have the freedom to forge alliances with private companies, and now we are threatened with an avalanche of private polyclinics swallowing up GP practices.

The health unions must now step up our resistance to such plans. If we do not, the result will eventually be a health system dominated by huge corporations, where care is determined by profits and where treatment will increasingly be subject to charges.

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In The Socialist 11 June 2008:

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Stop the NHS sell-off

Banking on NHS profits

My pain - and privatisation


Racist BNP have no solutions!

Socialist Party editorial

Will Obama win?

Obama declares victory, and shifts to the right

Socialist Party campaigns

"Anti-terror" laws are no solution

Defend Tommy Sheridan

Stirring rally backs Tommy Sheridan

Unison witch-hunt hits Northern Ireland

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Come to the Campaign for a New Workers' Party Conference

New Labour's parallel universe

Waltham Forest protest

Them & Us

Socialist Party youth and students

Underfunding youth facilities: It makes no sense!

Socialist Party feature

Oil price shock - the chaos of capitalism

Sudan's poor paying the price for oil

Fast news

Socialist Party review

Immortal Technique at the Coronet, London 4 June 2008

Socialist Party workplace news

Usdaw needs a fighting leadership

Organise to fight the public-sector pay robbery

National Shop Stewards Network second conference

Fujitsu workers strike to save jobs

The costs of privatisation

Brighton bus drivers strike


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