Socialist Worker

NHS trusts told to hush up damaging new cuts—as Branson grabs £700 million deal

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2530

The NHS may be in trouble but convicted fraudster Richard Branson is doing fine

The NHS may be in trouble but convicted fraudster Richard Branson is doing fine (Pic: Flickr/Esther Dyson)


Health bosses have been instructed to keep secret damaging plans that would see hospital departments and services axed across England.

This was revealed in a new report by the King’s Fund think tank into the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).

The 44 STP areas being rolled out across England aim to “reorganise” and “centralise” local health services.

The report said, “National NHS bodies had also asked STP leaders to keep details of draft STPs out of the public domain. This included instructions to actively reject Freedom of Information Act requests to see draft plans.”

This is partly because “NHS leaders wanted to be able to ‘manage’ the STP narrative… particularly where plans might involve politically sensitive changes”.

The Tories claim that the STPs are being pushed through for clinical, not financial, reasons.

They argue that consolidating services into “centres of excellence” and putting more emphasis on “primary care” will improve patient care.

Despite the Tories’ and top bosses’ efforts to mask the reality, some local plans have already been published or leaked.

Health campaigners are fighting back against the plans already.

Dozens of campaigners rallied outside Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in West Yorkshire last Saturday.

Details of the West Yorkshire STP remain secret, but its aim is to slash up to £1 billion from the budget.

Over 100 people rallied against hospital ward closures in Norwich last Friday.

And campaigners in North Devon are using a lively campaign over health service cuts to oppose any attacks that will come out in the STP.

The King’s Fund report also argues that the STPs mark a decisive shift from the focus on competition as a means of improving health service performance”.

But this misses the Tories’ real aim—to break up and slim-line the NHS in order to soften it up for privatisation.

This was laid bare last week when billionaire convicted fraudster Richard Branson’s Virgin Care was handed a £700 million contract—the most lucrative NHS contract ever outsourced.

Virgin will now run over 200 types of services in the Bath and North East Somerset area for the next seven years.

It was awarded by Tory-run Bath and North East Somerset council and the local NHS clinical commissioning group.

But a national fightback can push back these attacks and a fight for the NHS could become a focus for resistance.

Health campaigners have called a national demonstration for the NHS on Saturday 4 March.

The trade unions and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should declare their support and build the demonstration.


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