The new NHS bill this week will lay the legislative foundations for the privatisation of the NHS.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley is acting with lightning speed, dismantling bits of the health service even before the bill becomes law.
GP commissioning groups are being established up and down the country. But this is not about handing budgets over to GPs—it is about getting them into private hands.
Handing the entire NHS budget across to the private sector in one shot would have been difficult for the Tories.
But they reckon that GP consortia will be their ideal halfway house, as the GPs are forced to look to the private sector for managerial support.
Already Wyvern Health in the south west and Hounslow in west London have signed up with US multinational United Health.
And NHS London has signed contracts with management consultants firm KPMG in partnership with United Health.
The new bill states that no NHS body will be allowed to be overspend. So the next part of the jigsaw becomes clear.
As cuts hit, GP commissioning groups will start to fail financially. And as they do, private sector companies will be ready to move from a support role to taking on the whole budget themselves.
The bill will mean the privatisation of NHS hospitals and community services. No longer will NHS organisations be “preferred providers”—the new catchphrase is “any willing provider”.
And the new NHS market regulator, Monitor, will step to adjudicate if any private hospital company complains that they were not given the opportunity to bid for NHS contracts.
Hospitals will be allowed to compete on price, with one hospital vying to undercut the next. And the management of any hospital that fails financially can be taken over by the private sector.
Gone will be NHS national pay negotiations, with the new Foundation Trusts free to set their own pay scales. Pensions too will be under threat.
Couple this with “personal budgets” forced on patients with long-term conditions.
We will end up with a two-tier NHS, with richer patients topping up their NHS care privately, just as already happens in NHS dentistry.
These policies weren’t mentioned in either party’s election manifesto. The Unite and Unison unions need to mobilise their membership against it.
Sadly the British Medical Association, which organises most GPs, is still engaging in a policy of “constructive engagement”, worried they will split the medical profession by outright opposition. But this bill has to be stopped: it will fundamentally undermine the founding principles of the NHS.