The fight has started against the Tory government’s plans to dismantle the NHS.
Campaign group Keep Our NHS Public handed in a 25,000 signature petition against privatisation plans last Friday—and pledged to fight them every step of the way.
The government’s white paper sets out new laws that would destroy the health service by handing it over, piece by piece, to multinational corporations.
The plan could mean completely different pay in different workplaces. And it could see health workers who are transferred out of the NHS being shut out of its pension scheme.
If it is not stopped, this could be the biggest transfer of workers out of the public sector since the 1980s.
Incredibly, the department of health would no longer be responsible for running the NHS day to day.
Instead, the health service will be run by around 500 “GP consortia”, who will be left to “commission” healthcare and report to a new, independent Commissioning Board.
These consortia, not the government, will employ workers and “sell” their services.
The Tories are trying to pitch these changes as “empowering”. Health secretary Andrew Lansley says, “We are shifting power decisively towards patients and clinicians.”
The white paper is even ridiculously titled “Liberating the NHS”.
But doctors do not want to become managers, forced to choose between patients and budgets. Surveys show most GPs oppose the plans—but will be given no choice.
Many doctors will end up contracting out the administration work that’s been dumped on them to one of the many private firms sat waiting to snap it up.
And the government will make sure that they choose on the basis of cost, not care.
This will be enforced by a newly established regulator—Monitor—which will have “promoting competition” as its first priority.
As with academy schools, the first stage of the process is to hive off bits of the service into smaller units—known as “foundation trusts”.
Then they will be left to sink or swim—and probably privatised if they fail, aided by the removal in the white paper of the current “cap” on private sector involvement in hospitals. In the end this will add up to what one of the private health bosses, Kingsley Manning, praises as “denationalisation”—in other words the end of the NHS.
Initiatives like the petition and recent demonstrations show the huge public support that exists for the NHS.
Health campaigner Wendy Savage, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said, “People are already mobilising, forming alliances that will link the issue of privatisation with the huge cuts to come.”
This will be a big battle—but we can unite and fight to stop the cuts.