Socialist Worker

The attacks on the health service are under way

Issue No. 1935

The myth of choice

The next few years will see the introduction of the government’s “patient choice” scheme, where people will be offered up to five different hospitals for their operation.But a MORI poll carried out for the government showed most patients don’t think a choice of hospital is important—they would rather have more say in decisions about what kind of treatment they receive.

Other evidence suggests most people want to know they can get good NHS care at their local hospital—that’s why people have marched and campaigned against closures.But ministers are obsessed with the choice idea. And primary care trusts have been instructed to ensure at least one option is in the private sector. This will guarantee more work for the profit-makers.

The PFI rip-off

Hospital building is now at the mercy of the huge private sector consortiums involved in Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes. There are £15 billion worth of PFI schemes under way in the NHS, compared with just £257 million of publicly funded schemes.

The hospital projects can come to a grinding halt when contracting firms hit trouble. The Unison union reports that work has stopped at the £23 million Whittington Hospital project in London. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is the latest organisation to hammer PFI. It commissioned a report from Pam Edwards and Jean Shaoul of Manchester University, which says: “Our analysis shows that PFI is a very expensive way of financing and delivering public services.”

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Sat 22 Jan 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1935
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