Former Labour health secretary Frank Dobson has warned what the government’s plans to further open up the NHS to the private sector will mean.
“The prime minister has said there is no limit to the amount of work to be farmed out to the private sector. That means they intend to dismantle the NHS,” he told delegates at a meeting of the NHS Consultants’ Association in London last Saturday.
Dobson added that the whole basis of the NHS — the “pooling of risk and of cost” — was under threat as health corporations are invited to play an increasingly large role.
“The government is encouraging the private sector to cream off the most simple treatments, leaving the NHS to cope with the more complicated ones,” he said.
“Tony Blair says that he wants this to be part of his legacy. Besides being the man who took us into Iraq, he seems to want to be the man who took us out of the NHS.”
The second half of the conference was turned over to campaigning issues, and in particular to a discussion of the newly launched Keep Our NHS Public campaign.
Professor Allyson Pollock said the NHS Consultants’ Association had made this unprecedented move to underline the importance of the campaign.
She said the organisation should aim to provide reliable information about the attacks on the NHS and build local campaign groups with a “membership base among the public”.
Professor Colin Leys told the meeting that private sector involvement in the health service was set to grow dramatically.
He added that the government’s policies were leading towards the introduction of “user fees”—the equivalent of university top-up fees—for NHS patients.
The launch of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign comes at a crucial moment. The new payment by results system, which will mean cash follows patients through the NHS, could devastate health services, according to a report by the Audit Commission issued this week.
Under the scheme, hospitals will receive a fixed sum for each operation they perform. Wards that are less “efficient” or do not attract enough patients will be forced to close.
Not even accident and emergency wards will be protected from this market in health care.'
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