Socialist Worker

Private firms to grab the NHS

Issue No. 1707

Behind Blair's health 'reform'

Private firms to grab the NHS

  • Business plans to take over doctors and nurses
  • NHS millions channelled into private healthcare
  • Companies profit from more PFI schemes

THE GOVERNMENT claims that its "National Plan", launched this week, will save the National Health Service. But behind the talk of "modernisation" and "reform" New Labour is embarking on the biggest privatisation programme in the history of the NHS.

The government's plan will link the NHS with private medicine in a way that will destroy the foundations of the health service. The government boasts that it has promised �19 billion for the NHS over the next four years.

But this will still leave NHS spending well below the European Union average. And behind the scenes profit-hungry firms are queuing up to get their hands on this public money. The government promises to cut waiting lists. But it will do so by handing vast sums of NHS money to private health firms to do operations.

The government promises to build more new hospitals. But these hospitals will be built under Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes by giant construction firms like Balfour Beatty which want a profit.

New Labour health minister John Denham backs a report which argues to extend PFI across the whole of the NHS. That would mean private firms running medical services like cancer treatment, and employing doctors and nurses.

The government sees the NHS like a private business, where staff have to be "flexible" and meet productivity targets. The government even got a team from Richard Branson's Virgin group to "advise" it on how to run the NHS. Virgin says, "As with airlines, retailers or hotels, contracts must reflect the 24 hour, seven days a week nature of the work." How dare Virgin, the company which has made a complete shambles of running the privatised railways, tell NHS staff how to run the NHS? The government also wants to inflict on hospitals the same methods it has used to destroy comprehensive schools. So called "failing hospitals" will be "named and shamed". The government is not creating a "modern" NHS. It is turning the clock back to the dark days before its creation.

  • A NEW report shows that shortages of intensive care beds were worse last month than at the height of the winter crisis earlier this year. The Emergency Bed Service could find just 5 percent of the intensive care beds requested by doctors on several days in June.

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News
Sat 29 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1707
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