DO YOU want your local hospital run by management consultants like PriceWaterhouseCoopers or KPMG? That is the logic of the plans announced by health secretary Alan Milburn this week.
He wants to turn the NHS into a marketplace run by private companies. Milburn is to send in the private firms to run hospitals the government says are 'failing'. The only reason these hospitals are 'failing' is because they need more money, resources and staff.
But instead of flooding hospitals with resources Milburn wants to stuff them with business managers who will judge every medical procedure or drug by how much it costs. At the same time Milburn says he will 'free' 'successful' hospitals to run their own affairs.
These hospitals will be given a free hand to set up their trusts like companies. They would have complete independence, including over staff pay and conditions. As Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector UNISON union, says, 'The health secretary talks about freedom for managers. What does that freedom mean? 'Is it freedom to double their salaries at patients' expense, freedom to drive down the pay and conditions of staff?'
Milburn is introducing more privatisation and competition into the NHS than the Tories dared to. As John Edmonds, leader of the GMB union, says, 'It is staggering that at a time when the failure of rail privatisation is there for all to see, the government is intent on making the same mistake with our hospitals.'