A new report by the Kings Fund health charity has damned the Tories’ NHS reforms in England.
It slams the legacy of former Tory minister Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act as “confusing” and “damaging”.
And it describes the political debate about the NHS since then as “taken up with limiting the damage caused” by the Act.
But while the report recognises that there has been “greater marketisation of the NHS”, it is dangerously complacent about privatisation.
The report argues that “claims of mass privatisation were and are exaggerated”.
It says, “NHS providers continue to deliver the vast majority of care to NHS patients” and “there is little evidence that this will change any time soon”.
British Medical Journal research last year revealed how privatisation is gathering pace.
Private firms grabbed one in three contacts given out by clinical commissioning groups since the Act. NHS providers were granted £8.5 billion, while £690 million went to “third sector” organisations and £490 million to private bidders—a total value of £10 billion.
Private firms were most successful at winning those contracts awarded through “competitive tender”.
The biggest winner was Circle Healthcare, which won two contracts worth £285.9 million.
Circle is the disgraced company that ran Britain’s first privatised hospital, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridge, from 2007. It announced it was pulling out last month after it ran the hospital into the ground.
Private Finance Initiative schemes also lock the NHS into contracts with private contractors for decades.
This is the thin end of the wedge that could prise open the NHS.
The Labour leadership seized on the King's Fund report, as it has made the NHS one of its key election issues.
But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s “ten year plan” does not promise to get rid of privatisation. And his promised £2.5 billion more funding is nowhere near what’s needed.
But last year’s health walkouts showed the real alternative—workers fighting back against austerity. While officially about pay, workers were also striking to defend the NHS.
Union leaders hoped to use last year’s health walkouts to shape Labour’s agenda.
But the pressure is on them to get behind Ed Miliband. They called off two planned walkouts.
The ballot on the proposed offer is set to finish at the end of February. If the deal is rejected, Unison has said that it will call another strike on 13 March.
Every trade unionist and campaigner should fight to reject the deal and get the strikes back on.