Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2317

Hinchingbrooke hospital shows up the failures of health service privatisation

Ali Parsa has been given uncritical coverage by the BBC and other media in the past few weeks. He is chief executive of Circle, the private health firm that took over Hinchingbrooke Hospital Trust in Cambridgeshire six months ago.

Parsa is also an ex-banker and has a personal fortune in the millions. He recently claimed that the Hinchingbrooke trust was now “one of the best in the country”.

Parsa used selective figures as evidence that the public sector should not be running hospitals. His argument has been taken up by the Tory press, which complains that NHS privatisation is not happening fast enough.

The coalition is hellbent on opening up the NHS to any corporation that will take it. But look closer and you’ll see that their market dream is actually a nightmare.

Hinchingbrooke hospital made a £2.3 million loss in the three months to the end of June this year. It may need a bail-out later this year unless it makes massive cuts. And who will pay for that? Almost certainly us.

Staff are already suffering. Cleaning workers have been axed and now more job cuts are threatened. Some 50 nurses are facing redundancy. Both of these cuts will have an immediate impact on the safety and quality of patient care.

Parsa claims that Circle works “in partnership” with staff, yet neither they nor their unions have been consulted on the proposed job cuts.

Circle styles itself as a “social enterprise” but it is controlled by companies and investment funds registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Cayman Islands.

The people behind the scenes are purely out to make money from the ill-health and hardship of people who use Hinchingbrooke Hospital Trust services.

The NHS provides among the best, more cost effective and equitable health care in the world. It’s up to all of us to fight to save it.

Jim Fagan, retired health worker, east London

Jobbik’s racism

The recent news that Csanad Szegedi, one of the leaders of Hungary’s far-right and openly antisemitic Jobbik Party, has Jewish roots is ironic. But it has wider lessons in exposing the reality of the party.

Szegedi is a founding member of the Hungarian Guard—a uniformed fascist organisation directly descended from the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party.

During the Second World War the Nazi Arrow Cross was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews. Over 550,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust.

Szegedi, also a Jobbik MEP, attended his first meeting of the European Parliament in Hungarian Guard uniform, despite its ban in Hungary. He has also made numerous antisemitic speeches, railing against the “Jewishness” of the political elite.

Since it came to light that Szegedi’s grandmother was a Jewish holocaust survivor he has tried to distance himself from his antisemitic statements. Szegedi has had to resign from Jobbik and the party leadership are pressurising him to resign as an MEP.

Jobbik and its Nazi paramilitary wing are a real threat—with 17 percent of the vote in 2010 and a reported 25 percent support among young people, they are the third biggest party in Hungary.

Hungary is one of the most poverty stricken and indebted countries in Europe. It is crucial that anti-fascists confront Jobbik before they make further advances.

Barrie Levine, Glasgow

Is Mars in danger now that we’ve landed?

The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars a couple of weeks ago has been generally greeted with enthusiasm. Little wonder —one day we could have evidence of life having evolved somewhere other than our own planet.

But science and exploration do not happen in isolation from the rest of society. There is pressure to try and find a way to make a profit out of research.

It is not unreasonable that some people question whether this recent NASA mission will increase the likelihood that Mars’ natural resources will be pillaged. In the immediate future this is probably unlikely—but could happen.

So we need to push for science which has the goal of increasing our understanding of the universe, rather than making a profit.

Amy Gilligan, Oxford

Our social relations and science

It would be silly to argue that in order to be a good scientist you have to be a good Marxist (Letters, 18 August). Neither can we argue that Marxism is just simply a social science alongside other forms of study.

The evidence for the origin of species has been in front of our eyes for as long as we’ve had eyes. Why did it take until Charles Darwin for anyone to notice?

“Marxism is the analysis of social relationships”, but where does scientific study take place except in the context of a particular society?

Adam Marks, east London

Journey to the bottom

I have just read Gordon Brown’s comments on Scottish independence. He said that independence would signal “a race to the bottom”. Well at least he will be there to meet them when they arrive.

Derek Hanlin by email

It’s just not cricket

Oliver Coville MP was criticised in the Plymouth press last year for accepting £700 hospitality from a tobacco company to attend a cricket match.

It is now reported in the Daily Mail that Coville has been to India playing cricket with other MPs from the British parliament against MPs from India. Who stumped up the cost?

Peter Couch by email

Running from your taxes?

It’s a shame that Olympic champion Usain Bolt is refusing to return to Britain until laws are changed to prevent him paying tax, despite earning around £13 million a year.

If he’s not prepared to pay his dues then he can jog on. Perhaps running from the tax man will improve his sprinting times even more.

Jonny Jones, north London

The right to take up arms

In countries where the state abuses its power or has no legitimate claim to govern, armed struggle is sometimes the only option (When movements take up arms, 18 August). One only has to look at a newspaper to see evidence for this.

Robin Hume via Facebook

Gove’s playing field pranks

It’s a scandal that Michael Gove has sold off so many playing fields, then had the cheek to lie about it. As a punishment we should make him run cross-country. In the rain.

Amy Delby, Derby

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Tue 21 Aug 2012, 18:12 BST
Issue No. 2317
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