Socialist Worker

New Labour has brought market chaos to the NHS

Issue No. 1937

The government’s insistence that market reforms are the way forward for the NHS was exposed as the ideologically driven nonsense it is last week. Details emerged of how one of the flagship foundation hospitals sunk into financial crisis. Bradford Teaching Hospitals trust is over £11m in the red. Its chair has already been forced out.

Foundation hospitals have a new stand-alone status, cutting them loose from the rest of the NHS. They have also been the first to pilot “payment by results”—a market system in which hospitals are paid per patient treated.

In Bradford, different parts of the NHS are bickering over bills they are now forced to send each other. This comes on top of government pressure to buy operations from the private sector, which is pushing hundreds of hospitals into the red. Tony Blair wants to extend payment by results to every hospital in April. But hospitals should not be businesses. Blair’s market obsession is wrecking our NHS.

Rail Renationalisation

Money keeps rolling in, MPs keep rolling over

An overwhelming majority of people want to see the railways renationalised. This is also the official policy of the Labour Party — its annual conference called for the return of the railways to public ownership last year.

This week saw the opening of the trial that puts five individuals and two private firms — Railtrack and Balfour Beatty — in the dock on manslaughter charges over the Hatfield rail crash.

So where were the Labour MPs on the eve of the trial? All but 26 lined up behind Tony Blair’s government to vote down pro-nationalisation amendments to the Railways Bill, in the face of their own party’s policy.

On the same day, figures showed that profits for the private train operating firms have rocketed by 20 percent. The privateers must be rubbing their hands as their friends in the government ensure the money keeps rolling in.

The ‘war on terror’

Charles Clarke’s new policy: internal exile

NOTORIOUSLY, THE apartheid regime in South Africa created the category of the “banned person”. Political opponents were placed under house arrest, denied visitors, banned from communicating with friends or publishing their views.

This internal exile was imposed at the whim of whichever white bigot sat as justice minister. The Labour cabinet in its entirety opposed the evils of the apartheid regime. But now they are following in its footsteps. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, wants to introduce house arrest for those supposed “terrorist suspects” currently held indefinitely without trial in British prisons and to extend the measure to British citizens.

Once the idea that a “free born Briton” could be confined by law to their own home, prohibited from communicating with others and placed under curfew would have brought howls of protest. This was the sort of measure enacted by autocratic despots. New Labour is 100 percent liberal in economic matters. In matters of justice and social issues it is marching to an authoritarian beat of the drum.

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What We Think
Sat 5 Feb 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1937
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