Doctors protest at health plan
The government's drive to use private sector funding for hospital building has been called into question this week.
Just before Christmas, the department of health refused to approve a £1.2 billion private finance initiative (PFI) scheme to rebuild the St Bartholomew’s and Royal London Hospitals.
A thousand doctors at the two hospitals wrote to the Times newspaper on Monday of this week to protest that this threatened essential services.
PFI schemes represent a transfer of money out of the NHS into the hands of private contractors as they pay back debts over periods from 25 to 40 years.
The PFI Queen Elizabeth hospital trust in south London became technically insolvent in December 2005 when its predicted debt repayments rose to £100 million a year.
Private firm after the NHS
BMI healthcare, which runs a chain of 49 private hospitals in Britain, is looking to grab hold of NHS hospitals. New Labour’s drive to introduce the market into the health service means that hospitals running up financial deficits are declared to be “failing”.
Across the NHS, trusts have accumulated deficits of up to £1 billion. Now BMI, which says that it is in talks with the department of health, wants to take over “failing” hospitals, running them for profits.
Disabled people face another assault
New Labour is planning another attack on the most vulnerable people in society.
The government wants to impose tougher rules on those claiming incapacity benefit, which is paid to 2.7 million people. Work and pensions secretary John Hutton said that people claiming the benefit who refuse to take jobs could have their benefits cut.
Scotland says no to Powell
Several hundred people staged an angry protest against a visit by ex-US secretary of state Colin Powell to Glasgow on Monday night.
Powell was at the Hilton Hotel to raise money for the Jewish National Fund, an organisation that helps spread illegal Israeli settlements on Arab land. Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and blocked part of the road.