Health unions and campaigners have condemned a new attempt by the government to privatise NHS bodies responsible for a £64 billion budget.
Two weeks ago, the department of health was forced to withdraw an advert in the official journal of the European Union inviting businesses to run primary care trusts (PCTs).
PCTs commission and provide basic health services.
When the plan was exposed, the department claimed that there had been “drafting errors”.
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt said there was “no question whatsoever of privatising the NHS”.
This week, the advert was back. Redrafted in media-friendly language, the central thrust - privatisation on a huge scale - remains intact.
The new advert still provides for outsourcing of NHS commissioning, potentially placing the huge budget for PCTs in the hands of private companies.
Geoff Martin from the campaign group Health Emergency told Socialist Worker, “The key thing is that, despite all the rhetoric from Patricia Hewitt, this is still an attempt to bring in corporations that will bleed the NHS dry.”
He added that companies such as United Health Europe, part of the US firm United Healthcare, which has been invited to take over running GP services by North East Derbyshire PCT, would benefit from the proposals.
“The president of United Health Europe is Simon Stevens, Tony Blair’s former health advisor,” he said. “It seems, as usual, that the trail leads right back to Downing Street.
“A situation has been created where there are restrictions on finance while private corporations are bleeding money away from the NHS.
“While they profit, groups of workers are being thrown out of their jobs.”
Hospitals and PCTs across the country are already announcing sweeping job losses and service cuts as the cost of the market drains resources away from the health service.
The latest group to be affected are physiotherapists.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has revealed that nine out of ten graduate physiotherapists do not yet have a job to go to.
Members of the society protested outside parliament in central London on Tuesday of this week (see Physiotherapists' Westminster protest).
For more information on the fight to defend the NHS go to