Socialist Worker

Vultures circle as Tories’ NHS sell-off plan begins

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2268

Tory plans to wreck the NHS and hand the remains to their private sector buddies were set to take a step forwards this week.

The government’s health and social care bill was due a third reading in the House of Commons as Socialist Worker went to press. The bill was put “on pause” in the spring as the outcry against privatisation started to ring in MPs’ ears.

But despite near-unanimous opposition from health workers and the public, it seems likely that spineless Lib Dem MPs will help the Tories vote the measures through.

The proposals, which would then move to the House of Lords, will mean:

  • The whole service is up for privatisation as private firms will have the “right” to tender for NHS services.

    Local GP bodies will now commission health services. They must ensure that competition between different providers comes above health equality.

    The bill will allow GP commissioning to be handed over to multinational health insurance firms—including those found guilty of denying care to those they insure in the US.

  • NHS hospitals will have no limit on the number of private patients they can treat. That means growing waiting lists for ordinary patients as NHS trusts in financial trouble prioritise those with money.
  • Monitor, the regulator, will have a duty to “prevent anti-competitive behaviour”. That means ensuring nothing gets in the way of private sector profits.

The prospect of super-profits has right wing Tories and health bosses rubbing their hands with glee. Already there is talk of closing hospitals that are “surplus” and “unnecessary”, including the giant St Mary’s in Paddington, west London.

Private firm Helios is in talks to take over 20 hospitals.

The German company has a reputation for slashing jobs and pay. Doctors in Germany’s Verdi union struck against it earlier this year.

Such a struggle here could act as a lightning rod for the simmering anger at cuts that exists across the service, and among all those who rely on it.

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Article information

Tue 6 Sep 2011, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2268
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