Government plans to hand over control of most NHS spending to family doctors would unleash the biggest wave of privatisation ever seen in the health service.
Announcing his plans, Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley this week said that he wants 80 percent of the NHS budget to be allocated to businesses run by groups of local GPs.
Local primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, which currently buy services for patients, would be abolished.
“These proposals have nothing at all to do with patient care, and everything to do with the needs of big business,” says Gill George, a health worker and member of the Unite union executive.
Lansley claims that his changes would benefit ordinary people by removing key decisions from “faceless bureaucrats” and decentralise power.
But far from making the NHS more democratic, the Tory plans are a ruse for handing yet more of the health service to private firms.
Few GP practices have the time or facilities to run multi‑million pound budgets to buy the hospital or community care that their patients need.
But private health and insurance multinationals are ready to take on this work.
Bosses of mainly US-owned firms, like United Health and Humana, have joined British‑owned bloodsuckers, like Bupa and McKinsey, to “offer their services”—at the right price, of course.
According to the Financial Times newspaper, the market for administering the NHS budget “could grow at least tenfold from its current £50 million a year”.
Once the privateers have got their hands on the budget, we can expect them to line their pockets by commissioning even more health services and treatments from their private sector pals.
Public control and accountability would be lost.
If, for example, the private firm buying health services in your area decides that it is too expensive to offer a particular drug, there will be little point complaining to your local councillor or MP.
They will tell you that there’s nothing they can do—those decisions are now entirely in the hands of unelected businessmen and the occasional doctor.
In an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, Lansley claims that getting rid of “unnecessary managers” will free up resources for frontline staff.
But backroom staff are vital to the running of the NHS.
After Lansley’s cull, who will be left to answer the phone, book a bed in a ward, order more supplies or send out an appointment letter?
Frontline services will be affected too.
A report by the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) this week says that already up to 10,000 jobs are threatened by the need to make financial savings.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said that hospitals were making cuts by replacing skilled nurses with less experienced ones.
We need a campaign that unites health workers with patients, and draws upon the widespread hatred of big business, to stop these cuts