The Socialist 22 July 2020 |
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Tories using pandemic to privatise NHS more
Marching to save the NHS, 3.2.18, photo Mary Finch (Click to enlarge)
Jon Dale, secretary, Unite union Nottinghamshire Health Branch
Another £3 billion for the NHS to prepare for the coming winter, said the Tory government. NHS England had actually said it needed £10 billion.
And who decides where the money is spent? Is it raising low-paid health workers' pay and providing vitally needed jobs - or pumped to profit-seeking business?
In April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the NHS and vital public services would get "whatever they need." His July statement promised £15 billion for NHS PPE. These huge sums of money can sound impressive, even if too late for many who have become ill or died.
But at every step, the Tories have looked to channel public money to private business. Since the privatisation of NHS Logistics - by Tony Blair's 'New Labour' government - buying, stockpiling and distribution of supplies has been disorganised and run for profit.
In April, £350 million was awarded to private companies to procure PPE. Pestfix, a pest control company with just 16 employees, was awarded a £108 million contract to supply surgical gowns.
It turned out there had been an error - the contract was only for £32 million of gowns. Because of Pestfix's lack of assets, the government had to give it a deposit worth 75% of the value of the contract. Why couldn't the NHS place its own contract?
Another £18 million contract went to Aventis Solutions, a company reporting three employees and net assets of just £322 in June 2019.
These and other contracts were placed without tendering or competition. So much for the Tories' oft-repeated claims that the competitive capitalist market is more efficient than public services!
Governments have squeezed public services since the 1980s so they no longer have the people or facilities to cope with normal demands, let alone a pandemic.
Immediate restoration of past cuts is needed. All private contracts should be open to inspection by workers and trade unions, and brought back in-house. Privatised and outsourced NHS and other public services must be renationalised, under the democratic control of workers and service users.