Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/842/20059
NHS crisis: Establishment parties can't be trusted
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out how important the National Health Service (NHS) is to people. But for the record, physics professor Stephen Hawking - who has motor neurone disease and considers that the NHS saved his life - has said that it "must be preserved from commercial interests who want to privatise it."
If you have watched how other publicly owned services and industries have been privatised, there is a 'playbook' which successive governments have clearly been working to with the NHS.
First, attack the workers' pay and conditions. Second, introduce artificial markets, and thirdly, starve it of resources. All three arms of this strategy are coming together right now.
Health service workers have seen the value of their earnings fall by 10-12% since 2010 under the coalition's pay freeze - something that will not be fixed by the shoddy pay deal currently on offer (see page 9).
The NHS 'internal market', started by the Tories in 1990, was given further scope by successive Labour governments' support for Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals.
PFI contracts are a licence to print money for companies which build and service hospitals - leasing them back to the NHS for a tidy profit and bleeding health service budgets white in the process.
When the first NHS hospital (Hinchingbrooke, in Cambridgeshire) was shifted into the private sector, it was with the approval of the then Labour health minister and current shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham. But not being able to make enough profit resulted in private 'vulture company' Circle Healthcare walking away from the ten-year contract after just two years.
To top it all, the financial crunch has finally come.
In the crazy world of the internal market, one section of the health service, NHS Providers, has entered into a stand-off with another, NHS Monitor.
NHS Monitor sets the price list for various treatments, procedures and services, and is demanding price cuts of £1.2 billion this year - on top of successive cuts since 2010 that amount to £20 billion overall.
NHS Providers represents 94% of NHS hospitals, which have to balance their books by charging the NHS for their services. They have lodged a formal objection, saying that they "can no longer guarantee safe and effective care unless they are properly and fully paid for the patients they treat."
This means that either NHS England will have to redirect resources from elsewhere or the government will have to come up with more money.
With a general election looming it would be nice to think that one of the major parties at least would reflect the overwhelming support amongst voters for a fully funded NHS. Sadly, this is not so.
In words, the Labour party has changed its pro-privatisation stance. But a close look at its policies reveals it doesn't intend to exclude private health companies from NHS contracts but will stick to the current government's 'deficit reduction' plans.
When it comes to the establishment parties' NHS claims, 'trust me' is not a believable policy.
- No cuts or closures - full funding for our health care
- End the Private Finance Initiative - bring PFI companies into public ownership
- Reverse council cuts to social care to ease the A&E crisis
- Public ownership of the drugs companies
- Pay health workers - end the pay freeze and the low pay scandal
In The Socialist 4 February 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns