Left Unity opposes NHS privatisation

We held a successful meeting of Southwark Left Unity on 26 November dealing with the rapid privatisation of the NHS writes Jane Kelly. We showed a very impressive campaigning film – ‘Sell-Off’ by documentary film-maker Peter Bach. You can order a copy here. This exposed the 20 year long process of increasing privatisation carried out by the governments of both major parties from Thatcher to Blair to Cameron.

Structured into ten sections it showed the way in which Tory grandees such as Oliver Letwin, had been planning this for a very long time. [i]

The film argued that the continued attacks on the NHS, including on nurses and doctors, etc. is the very same process used to privatise British Rail and more recently the Royal Mail – run it down by cuts alongside blaming these public sector organisations for not being able to cope. The hospitals in Staffordshire, that tried to deal with cuts in income by cutting staff numbers to dangerously low levels, leading to the scandal and many patients dying, has led to the NHS’ biggest ever outsourcing of services worth over £1.2bn.

As Guardian wrote: ‘A host of private healthcare firms have already expressed interest in securing a £689m, 10-year contract to provide cancer care at four NHS GP-led clinical commissioning group areas in Staffordshire.’

‘The four CCGs involved, which care for 767,000 patients, are also seeking bidders for a separate £535m contract to provide end-of-life care. Together the contracts are worth £1.22bn, much more than the previous record high of £500m, secured by Richard Branson’s Virgin Care for providing various health services in Surrey.’ And of course Branson’s Virgin company is one of the bidders.

Under the Labour Government, PFI (Private Finance Initiative) was used to build hospitals leading to the bankrupting of several hospital trusts because of the extortionate interest rates, including interest rate swaps revealed by the Libor scandal.

Over 200 Parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections, yet they were all allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care Bill as it went through Parliament – a conflict of interest that would not have been accepted at local authority level.

The film also focused on the bullying and intimidation that has gone on when whistle-blowers try to expose some of these scandals with one ex-manager explaining how he had been phoned at home and threatened with being subjected to something similar to what happened to Dr David Kelly.

The film was followed by an interesting talk by Dr Bob Gill, a South London GP and member of the National Health Action party, who are standing candidates in the election mostly against prominent Tories such as Jeremy Hunt, also appears in the film and Mark Boothroyd a nurse from St Thomas’ Hospital. There was a discussion in which nearly all those who came spoke.

The privatisation of the NHS, something Cameron explicitly denied in the run-up to the last election as well as the debate on immigration are going to be the main issues during the next few months leading to the election on May. Ironically the NHS couldn’t run without immigrant labour. Eleven percent of all staff working for the NHS and in community health services are not British. The proportion of foreign nationals increases for professionally qualified clinical staff (14%) and even more so for doctors (26%).

I would encourage all Left Unity branches to show the film and it could also be shown at trade union branch meetings, community groups, etc.

[i] Oliver Letwin and John Redwood. (1988) Britain’s Biggest Enterprise – ideas for radical reform of the NHS, Centre for Policy Studies, ISBN 1-870265-19-X

Oliver Letwin (1988) Privatizing the World: A Study of International Privatization in Theory and Practice, Thomson Learning, ISBN 0-304-31527-3


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