Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has been forced to retreat over one aspect of New Labour’s plans to privatise key aspects of the NHS.
Hewitt had announced plans to transfer some 250,000 staff employed by primary care trusts (PCTs) out of the NHS. But opposition to the plans, including from backbench Labour MPs, means that she looks set to withdraw this measure.
The opposition follows the launch of the Keep Our NHS Public campaign, which has mobilised health workers, local campaigners, GPs, trade unionists and MPs, against the government’s plans.
However, plans to merge many PCTs are still set to go ahead. A meeting in Oxford last Saturday, backed by Keep Our NHS Public, heard about plans to merge all Oxfordshire’s PCTs into a single body.
The health authority plans to put the running of this new body out to tender, leading to the prospect of a private company managing the county’s £600 million health budget.
Another Keep Our NHS Public meeting in Tower Hamlets, east London, on Wednesday of last week attracted 70 people, about two thirds of them health workers.
Former consultant and longstanding health activist Wendy Savage told the meeting, “People need to look at the effects of giving large amounts of NHS money to private contractors.”
The meeting decided to campaign against plans to use private finance to rebuild the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
Go to www.keepourNHSpublic.com