The Tories want to flood NHS hospitals with private patients—and give NHS patients a worse service.
Currently NHS hospitals can raise up to 2 percent of their income from patients who pay fees. But health secretary Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill would increase this to a whopping 49 percent.
And the £20 billion cuts that the government wants to impose in the health service means hospital bosses are looking to bring in more private patients.
“It’s horrible,” a nurse at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, told Socialist Worker. “We work for the NHS because it’s a wonderful organisation that cares for everybody.
“Now we will be forced to look after those who can pay for care, while people who can’t pay get kicked to the back of the queue.”
St George’s expects to make around £4 million from private patients in the current financial year. In December it hired a “private patient development manager” to expand the programme further.
The hospital’s own publicity says private patients get “access to treatment protocols that are not necessarily available to all NHS patients”. It denies that increasing the number of private patients will impact on services for NHS patients.
But workers are unconvinced. “If the trust ups the number of private patients without increasing staff numbers, there’s only one way that can work out,” said the nurse.
“We’re running at just about maximum capacity. There is no slack. One of our wards closed just last year. I was horrified to see it go.
“They’ve even stopped providing ante-natal visits that used to be done as a matter of course. Now women come to the hospital to give birth without having seen the facilities.”
The NHS South West London’s Better Services Better Value (BSBV) review says St George’s could see its maternity ward closed altogether.
BSBV spokesperson Mike Bailey has admitted that, “Clearly there will be a save our hospitals campaign at each one.” But he claims there is no choice but to cut.
The nurse, who was one of around 50 activists and health workers protesting against the privatisation at St George’s last week, disagrees.
“The trust would argue that it is investing in private patient facilities to reduce its deficit. But the funding gap is not our fault.
“And this contradicts the principles the NHS was founded on—health care for all based on need and free at the point of delivery.”