Socialist Worker

New Labour steps up its health privatisation plans

by Joseph Choonara
Issue No. 1986

Proposals in the government’s new health White Paper will make it easier for private companies to profit from health services, and will make the funding crisis faced by many hospitals worse.

The paper, published on Monday of this week, marks a major change in direction. For years the NHS has seen the centralisation of resources in large general hospitals – often built with private funds through the private finance initiative (PFI).

Smaller community and cottage hospitals, providing basic services on a local basis, have been starved of cash, and many have closed.

Now health secretary Patricia Hewitt says that over ten years she wants to see 5 percent of resources shifted away from general hospitals towards services provided in the community.

This will be disastrous for larger hospitals, many of which are struggling with huge debts. A recent “reappraisal” of hospital building has already scaled back PFI projects.

PFI has been a costly disaster for the NHS. But instead of providing urgently needed direct funding for hospital building, the government’s proposals will simply mean more cuts.

Much of the money diverted away from general hospitals will pass straight into the hands of private companies.

Many basic procedures, previously carried out in hospitals, will be provided in “supersurgeries”, an increasing number of which will be outside the NHS.

Healthcare will be fragmented, allowing private providers to cherry-pick the most simple and lucrative operations. Hewitt is explicitly encouraging health corporations to provide services.

The latest proposals show the need for campaigns that can force the government to provide a properly funded NHS – without money draining away into the hands of the privateers.

The Keep Our NHS Public campaign, which brings together health workers and campaigners can play a vital role in this.

For more information on the campaign go to

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Sat 4 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1986
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