Socialist Worker

Labour is bad for your health, warns Dobson

Issue No. 1870

'I WISH it was not necessary to be warning people about a Labour government with policies that are a threat to the NHS.' That statement came from a former Labour cabinet minister on the eve of the party's conference. Frank Dobson, Blair's first minister for health, launched a blistering attack on the government's key health policies, speaking in Sunderland on Monday of this week.

He attacked the Labour government for 'reintroducing competition' into the NHS. And he slammed the government's plans for privately run diagnostic and treatment centres and for foundation hospitals. 'What is proposed is disastrous for the NHS and disastrous for the Labour Party,' he said.

The government wants 51 diagnostic and treatment centres that will be built and run by the private sector and will rush through operations. They have rightly been dubbed 'surgical factories'. Dobson said, 'The government is dishing out franchises to the private sector. They are going to be allowed to have 70 percent NHS staff.

'There is a proposal that the company will get a 15 percent bonus per operation they do, more than if the operation was done on the NHS.' He explained the centres could 'cream off the easy operations and get more money for doing it. 'You can't produce a jot of evidence that competition is to anyone's advantage.' David Price, a health researcher at University College London, backed up Dobson's arguments.

He said, 'The NHS is a massive institution that is being packaged and sold off. This is the most critical moment in its whole history. What is happening in the NHS is not, as the government says, about introducing equality-it is about destroying all mechanisms of equality. What we are hearing is not 'spin' or 'sexing up'-it is straight misinformation.'

'Beggar my neighbour'

FRANK DOBSON also slammed the government's key policy of foundation hospitals when he spoke in Sunderland last week. These elite hospitals will increase the role of business and profit in the NHS, and will create a two-tier health service.

The plan stung 60 Labour MPs into voting against the government in parliament in July. Blair saw his government's majority fall from 171 to just 35. Dobson admitted, 'The government thought it was going to lose that night. I wish to god they had.'

He explained that foundation hospitals would have more funds and freedoms than NHS hospitals which would mean they could poach NHS staff: 'I don't think beggar my neighbour is a good slogan for the NHS.' And he took apart Blair's arguments to justify the elite hospitals.

'Local people in control? Pull the other one. The hospital and services will not be run in any way whatever by any elected governors. They will be run by an executive board of directors. The non-executive directors on that board will be drawn from those with expertise in business, legal and financial matters. As for the regulator that will be introduced, I said to Tony Blair, 'If the bill goes through can I be the regulator? Because they will have more powers than the secretary of state.''

School stockmarket

WHEN TONY Blair opened Britain's first purpose-built new academy school in south London last week it gave a glimpse of his vision for education. The academy has a business court with a mini stock exchange and trading floor. Professor Alex Reed CBE, who is the founder of Reed Executive Recruitment, has put £2 million into another academy in west London.

He says, 'The two specialisms in this school will be enterprise, which is something very close to my heart, and sport. 'It's not that we want to turn out lots of Richard Bransons. 'But we want students to imbibe the spirit of enterprise in everything they do.' $ Stop Press

TONY BLAIR is to welcome fellow warmonger George Bush to a four-day state visit to Britain in November. Reacting to the news, Tony Benn said, 'President Bush will not be welcome in Britain. His war killed thousands of people and left Iraq in chaos and now Iraq's assets are to be sold off on the world market.'

The Stop the War Coalition is planning to organise mass protests against Bush.

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Sat 27 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1870
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