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Coalition steps up assault on NHS
RECENTLY, THE anti-cuts website False Economy published its findings from NHS Trusts which showed that well over 50,000 health workers' jobs will be axed. These job losses, as well as hospital A&E, ward and department closures, show that David Cameron's general election pledge, that spending on NHS services would be protected by the government, is just hogwash.
Roger Davey, Unison health executive (writing in a personal capacity), explains how the NHS is being systematically destroyed by the government, and what is needed to fight this assault on our health services.
Nobody should underestimate the scale and nature of the coalition government's attack on the NHS. If these proposals are implemented we will see the dismantling, destruction and eventual privatisation of the NHS. It will mean the end of free comprehensive care, and a significant move towards a US-style system.
This programme of privatisation was, of course, begun under the previous Labour government. However, the combining of an acceleration of privatisation with the biggest financial cuts in NHS history will result in a huge wave of ward closures and mass redundancies.
The government's proposals include:
- Giving £80 billion of our NHS money to GP consortiums who are supposed to buy care on our behalf. In reality these organisations are likely to be taken over by private consortiums, accountable to shareholders, who will put the need to make a profit above the interests of patients, and will seek to buy treatment from the cheapest possible provider in the private sector.
- To scrap the NHS as a provider of health care. All NHS organisations will move into or become Foundation Trusts (FTs), which in effect will act like private companies. They will be free to borrow on the financial markets, free to break away from national collective bargaining, and crucially will have the cap on the number of private patients they can treat lifted.
- It is also likely that the government will abolish the tariff pricing system for health treatment. This means that consortiums and private insurance can buy from the cheapest health provider irrespective of the quality of care.
All of this would lead to the growing domination of multinational companies in the provision of health. Increasingly these profit hungry giants will take over FTs and other former NHS organisations.
However, the government will face enormous opposition from NHS workers and the wider community in trying to implement this programme.
If the health unions lead an effective opposition the government can certainly be defeated. Unison members are prepared to fight in defence of the NHS and their pay and conditions. That is why the Unison health executive, feeling the pressure from below, overwhelmingly voted to oppose the Unison leadership's attempt to sign up to a completely inadequate deal.
We now have to harness the anger of Unison members in order to organise a struggle to defeat the government's plans. The first step is for a massive mobilisation of health workers to the TUC demo on 26 March. This needs to be a step towards a one-day public sector general strike in opposition to all cuts and privatisation.
In The Socialist 3 March 2011:
International socialist news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party congress 2011
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history