Socialist Worker

Privatisation threatens health service as workers fight to reject pay deal

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2441

Health workers strike in central London last October

Health workers strike in central London last October (Pic: Guy Smallman)

NHS bosses have awarded private health giant Optum “preferred bidder” status on NHS contracts while the firm is in court for allegedly defrauding US hospices. 

Optum is one of 12 firms set to raid £5 billion worth of contracts. 

The company was paid to care for terminally ill patients, but took people who were cheeper to treat instread. 

It’s a stark warning that privateers will always put profits first. Private firm Circle ran Hinchingbrooke Hospital into the ground and applied for a £10 million bailout last week. 

And Labour’s Lord Beecham has called for an investigation into Care UK pulling out of Newcastle’s Grainger GP Practice last May. 

Privatisation is part of a relentless NHS crisis. Years of cuts have produced the perfect storm, while poverty pay and rocketing workloads force health workers out.


The number of Nottingham ambulance workers resigning and taking days off due to stress has nearly doubled in the last four years.

The Labour Party is making the NHS a key election issue. But Labour is committed to Tory austerity and an “internal market” in the NHS. 

Last year’s strikes showed the real alternative that can act as a focus for workers, patients and health campaigners.

But union leaders called off two planned walkouts last month because of pressure to get behind Ed Miliband. The Unison union is balloting on a deal.

Karen Reissmann is a Unison union national and health service group executive member. She told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “Workers are frustrated with the union leadership and don’t have much hope that the general election will change things.  

“But the NHS crisis also means that workers are getting more pissed off. I’d strongly urge branches to recommend a No vote in the ballot.” 

Unison has said it will call a health strike on 13 March if workers reject the deal. 

Every trade unionist and campaigner should back the campaign to reject the deal.

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Tue 17 Feb 2015, 15:56 GMT
Issue No. 2441
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