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Keep our NHS public

From Chris Day

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Before the UK election, Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP toured the United States criticising the NHS in a series of TV interviews, saying he "wouldn't wish it on anybody". His comments were immediately dismissed by David Cameron.

The government plans to privatise the NHS are, however, now being reported in the mainstream media "Two leading health experts write for Channel 4 News on the NHS reforms - The Health and Social Care Bill, now being debated in Parliament, creates a health care market that will abolish the English NHS as a universal, comprehensive public service.."

Even the Halifax Courier is carrying the story: "Protests, marches and lobbies will be held across the UK in opposition to the Government's Health and Social Care Bill which unions believe will lead to health services being privatised".

The problem for Cameron is that the NHS has enormous support in this country. The most recent Ipsos Mori report: "reveals that the level of satisfaction recorded in March 2010 (72 per cent) was high and had been more or less sustained since December 2008..".

The government has been forced to pause its parliamentary activties on the bill to allow time for consultation. Meanwhile, on the ground, the privatisation program is going ahead at full speed. Lansley may have to resign, but Cameron is not going to give up his privatisation program.

As Left Futures suggest: '..don't buy talk about a U-turn. Like Blair before him, Lansley must have known there was little chance of pushing through such a transformational policy in its entirety. So, he will surely announce "concessions"; he'll claim that he has compromised, and taken the criticisms on board, thus defusing opposition. But the danger is he will end up getting most of what he wanted, even if he has to slow the whole process down. The direction of travel is clear: an ever-expanding role of the private sector in an increasingly fragmented National Health Service.'

Calderdale Save Our Services has organised a public meeting 'What's happening to our health service?' with Linda Roirdan MP, Dr Bob Heys and Paul Cooney (Secretary Unison Health Kirklees), which is on Thursday 14 April at 7.30 pm in Halifax Central Library.

From Lesley M

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The latest onslaught on the NHS by the Coalition Government has brought to light the extent to which the NHS has already been privatised.

Even our local health centre in Hebden Bridge can state that "A major part of Britain's healthcare is provided by the private sector...".

There are so many parts of the health service which we just accept as being privatised and which we haven't really made much of a fuss about like hospital cleaning and laundry services, catering, security, parking and many many more. Then when you start to look you can find out that there are a number of companies like United Healthcare (a US company with an interesting record - see the Daily Mirror dated 18th July 2010) which are developing lots of NHS services.

All this is before the proposed change to consortia-led health care take place.... I am sceptical about any meeting about healthcare which involves politicians like the one planned in Halifax. As far as I can see the Labour Party was just as keen under Blair and Brown to privatise the health service as the present Tory and Lib-Dem government.

From Susan Press

Thursday, 14 April 2011

I was glad to note that the appalling ConDem Health Minister Andrew Lansley received a resounding 98 per cent vote of no confidence at the RCN Conference.

Also glad to note the massive presence of thousands of UNISON health workers (including a delegation from Calderdale) on the recent March 26 demo in London.

And for the record, there were dozens of Labour Party banners there too.
Let's face it. Without Labour and the 1945 Attlee Government, the NHS would never have been founded in the first place. But Aneurin bevan's biggest mistake was perhaps to concede to the demands of the BMA that private practice be allowed to co-exist with public

It is true that Blair and Brown built hospitals (including calderdale) with PFI money. It is also true many thousands in the Labour Party including then MPs Alice Mahon and Chris McCafferty opposed both PFI and the practice of outsourcing cleaning, catering etc which I accept did happen under New Labour's watch.

But what the Tories and Liberal democrats are now proposing goes way beyond Blair's unnecessary tinkering with the concept of universal healthcare.

The ConDems are basically embarking on the bit by bit dismantling of the NHS for ideological reasons which have nothing to do with saving money.
The mass opposition of the thousands who were marching in London (and many more who were there in spirit) will I hope ensure that the NHS survives. It is Labour's greatest legacy - which is perhaps why the Tories are so hell-bent on its destruction.

From Chris Day

Sunday, 17 April 2011

You wrote, Susan: "The ConDems are basically embarking on the bit by bit dismantling of the NHS for ideological reasons which have nothing to do with saving money."

You are substantially correct, but the point needs clarifying. This article by Michael Burke shows clearly how: "The Tory-led cuts to the NHS are nearly 19% in real terms compared to normal trends over the lifetime of this Parliament."

"As a result, health outcomes will actually deteriorate more rapidly than the headline data suggest. By definition, the most vulnerable will suffer as a result"

Michael also provides data to show that: "Health spending in Britain is already way below the average of its peer group in the richest OECD economies. Tory cuts will take it to below the OECD average as a whole."

The ideological part is the privatisation program. This part of the plan is clearly not to save money. "..in general, as the proportion of private spending on healthcare rises, so does the overall cost. The US has the highest proportion of private provision and its total healthcare costs are off the chart - even although 45 million Americans have no healthcare insurance, compared to the universal system for the NHS. For 2007 (latest data) the US spent 16% of GDP on healthcare, whereas Britain spent 8.4% (OECD, 2009). Yet there is the same ratio of health workers in the workforce and life expectancy at birth is higher in Britain."

A central aim of the government white paper is to force these inefficiencies through parliament. "..the PCTs are currently abandoning private firms ? because they are more costly than the NHS! The government intends to investigate this breach of the right to profit. The aim of government policy is not better healthcare, or even more efficient, less costly healthcare. It is to boost the profits of the private sector by displacing the more efficient public sector."

From Michael Piggott

Monday, 23 May 2011

In wishing to deepen the penetration of privatisation into the NHS, indeed to break up the existing public service, the government really is driven by malice, as well as greed. This leads it to constantly denigrate the public health service's achievements to justify their so-called 'reforms'.

Here are a few counter-arguments in favour of the continuation of a fully non-privatised National Health Service..

Equality of access to treatment is the highest in the UK out of 12 countries surveyed by the Commonwealth Fund last year. Fewer people failed to access the treatment they need than in any other country. It will be no surprise to most that the worst country for people failing to access care because of cost was the United States. The Tories' Health Bill will take us towards an American-style health insurance scheme. Many people's lives will be shortened, people will suffer and die, because of this government's planned changes.

In the States, the best health care is the preserve of the rich. Our NHS provides care on the basis of need, not wealth. It isn't perfect; there have of course been issues with the postcode lotteries, but there is no way that the penetration of the NHS by profit-taking private health companies is going to address that.

Affordability by the country, ie the taxpayer: Our healthcare costs are amongst the lowest in Europe - less, per capita, is spent by British governments than is spent by Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Greece, Germany, France, Belgium and Austria. How can our government claim that our health service's costs are too high? Clearly, they are lying.

Forcing one of the cheapest universal healthcare services in the world to make deep cuts will be disastrous for our population's health.

Satisfaction with the service: Two thirds of the population are either very or quite happy with state-run health care. There is very little desire in the population for a move towards privatisation - except in the private health industry. The American private health industry is salivating at the prospect of taking over British health care; US companies have been promised opportunities for fat profits by the ConDem government, at the expense of the rest of us. Desire for any change in that direction is the lowest in the world. The government is, quite clearly, proving that they do not have the best interests of the British population at heart.

Efficiency: The ConDems claim that the NHS is inefficient. Then let them define 'efficiency' and explain by what criteria they claim the NHS is 'inefficient', and on what basis do they claim the NHS is 'inefficient'.

To summarise, the NHS excels in access to healthcare on the basis of need. It is probably the most efficient system of universal healthcare in the world.

The information I have used here is based on a brilliant article by a GP, Dr Jonathon Tomlinson, writing in the paper Keep Our NHS Public. I would like to end by quoting him directly:

'The denigration of the NHS by proponents of reform is not only inexcusable, but the motives are suspect in the extreme. The aims of the reforms are to destroy a successful public service and replace it with a series of healthcare markets, risking the very core principles of equitable, needs-based, cost-effective care for all.'

Most of us who feel this way hope that the present government can be persuaded of the error of its ways and be forced into a U-turn and dropping the whole rotten business. Given the demonstrated nature of the Tories and their coalition partners, this is a faint hope. Tory ideology of extreme capitalism will, I believe, continue to drive the government's nefarious aims onwards. If the ConDems remain in power for a further four years, the damage done may well be too disastrous to repair.

The government needs to be brought down. If the LibDems have any principles left at all, they will pull out of the coalition and force a general election. But of course, they don't, and they won't. They know that a new general election now would all but spell the end for their party. Their self-interest comes before the country, and they know that their current participation in government will be their last. So what is to be done?

We must demand of the Labour movement leadership as a whole, the Greens, and any progressives (if any!) left in the LibDems, that they should mobilise to do everything in their power to end this government's reign. The Labour leadership should clearly re-state their support for a health service that returns to the principles on which the NHS was set up by the post-war Labour government. And any idea that there is a place for any private-sector involvement in the NHS should be rejected once and for all time