Socialist Worker

When less costs more for the NHS

Issue No. 1888

NEW LABOUR are sending huge numbers of NHS patients to private hospitals-which charge 40 to 50 percent more for operations. In 2001 the NHS paid an average of £922 to a private hospital for a cataract operation. It cost just £632 to perform an identical operation in an NHS hospital.

Taxpayers are forking out £100 million to pay for 80,000 operations performed in private hospitals each year. Blair has made it clear that he will force the market into the NHS at any price. New Labour are keen to reintroduce the disastrous internal market into the health service.

When they came to power in 1997 they pledged that they would scrap this Tory market system. But, starting from this year, NHS hospitals will be paid a fixed price for each patient they treat, regardless of the actual costs. Money will follow the patient around in a 'payment by results' scheme.

John Appleby, the senior economist at the health service think-tank the King's Fund, said, 'It is the most profound of all the changes happening in the NHS. 'It marks a return to the internal market that Labour said it was going to abolish.'

The government has also signed a deal with overseas-owned independent treatment centres which guarantees to pay them an extra 15 percent on top of the cost of the operation for the next five years.


In this week - 25 years ago - 1979

25 years ago a mass movement in Iran overthrew the Shah's dictatorship. Workers' struggles played a key part in removing the Shah's brutal regime, which had been backed by the US and Britain. They organised in workers' committees called shoras.

The revolution toppled a regime which had been a key pillar of US domination in the oil-rich region-which is why the US has hated Iran ever since.


New Wave: same old wavering

THE 'NEW Wave' group of Labour MPs was launched with much fanfare in a letter to the Independent in November last year. They announced their plan to reclaim the Labour Party from the Blairites. In an interview in February's Labour Left Briefing magazine, their leader, Angela Eagle MP, explained how she planned to create a 'democratic socialist alternative' to Blair.

In particular she 'opposed the introduction of market forces into some areas of public services, most notably...variable top-up fees'. The interview was published a few days after the crucial parliamentary vote on university top-up fees, which Blair won by just five votes.

Angela Eagle, and seven of the other Labour MPs who signed her letter to the Independent, voted in favour of the Higher Education Bill, ensuring victory for Blair's policy of imposing variable top-up fees. So much for reclaiming Labour.


The pesticide in a can

DRINKS multinationals Coca-Cola and Pepsi are caught up in a scandal in India. Last year they were accused of selling soft drinks containing harmful pesticides. On Thursday of last week a committee of Indian MPs slammed the two companies and upheld the initial report that sparked the controversy.

The Delhi-based Centre for Science and the Environment found that Pepsi's soft drinks contained 36 times the level of pesticides permitted under EU regulations. Coca-Cola had 30 times the level.

The Indian soft drinks market is worth £900 million a year, and Coke and Pepsi control over 80 percent of it. They also produce much of the bottled water drunk in India. It would cost them less than half a penny a bottle to apply even the toughest safety requirements.

The Centre for Science and the Environment found a cocktail of dangerous pesticides when they tested 12 leading brands of drink. They included Lindane, which 'damages human liver, kidney, neural and immune systems and induces birth defects and cancer', DDT, which increases the risk of breast cancer in women, and Chloropyrifos, an organo-phosphate which can damage the nervous system.


Stealing from sick?

THE UNION of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) was a right wing breakaway from the NUM union. Today it claims just 1,200 members. But its president, Neal Greatrex, grabbed £151,000 last year, according to accounts filed with the Certification Office for Trade Unions. General secretary Mick Stevens got £111,015.

According to Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, the UDM is bankrolled by Vendside, a company set up by the UDM to act for former miners seeking compensation for diseases resulting from their work. Vendside receives lower compensation payments than individual miners would receive, but it is allowed to charge an extra fee.

Price says, 'Greatrex and Stevens have exploited the suffering of former miners and their families to feather their own nests. The UDM can afford to pay these excessive salaries due to the vast amounts of contributions received from Vendside, the subsidiary company established by UDM, which has been given the government's seal of approval.'

Thanks to Richard Buckwell


Figure it out 20 billion

The amount in tonnes of carbon dioxide oil giant ExxonMobil and its subsidiaries have pumped out in the last 20 years. ExxonMobil has been responsible for at least 4.7 percent of emissions.


Who says?

'Those proto-communists are disseminating lies.'

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister in support of former French prime minister Alain Juppe, who has recently been convicted for corruption

'Watching Alastair Campbell on the day Hutton was published felt like lying in the gutter while your head's kicked in.'

John Humphrys veteran BBC presenter

'To act as an effective link between the BBC, government and parliament.'

from the advert New Labour placed for a supposedly independent new chair of governors of the BBC

'Go to mosques and bring the light to the Muslims. Remind all the Muslim killers that thou shall not kill. Make them good Christians and good people.'

Benny Elon Israeli tourism minister calls for missionaries to convert Muslims

'I estimate that Labour has 12 to 18 months to change course or it will cease to be the 'Labour' party. The much vaunted minimum wage is £4.60 an hour, when we promised in 1992 to set it at £5.'

Bob Thomson former chair of the Scottish Labour Party

'Tony is very mindful of Thatcher. After seven years and two elections people tend to get fed up of you. It's better to go out on a high.'

Geoffrey Robinson Labour millionaire


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 14 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1888
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