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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 March 2006

New Labour's NHS lies

MILLIONS OF pounds in deficit, jobs and services cut, healthcare rationed, wards and hospitals closing - the NHS is in crisis. But who's to blame? We expose the government's lies about the NHS.

Lie 1: "The deficits are mainly because hospitals have had to pay for big pay rises for doctors and nurses."

Some senior doctors have been given large pay rises. But many NHS staff are faced with effective pay cuts because of the Agenda for Change job evaluation and pay review system. Many NHS staff are still on chronically low wages. Now they are facing redundancy as well.

Lie 2: "The deficits are also because of a massive increase in the drugs bill."

The cost of drugs has gone up and new drugs have become available to treat more illnesses. But drug companies are some of the most profitable in the world. They cost the NHS 10 billion a year, about 14% of total expenditure.

If these companies were nationalised and controlled democratically as an integral part of the health service, their resources could be unleashed for the benefit of all, not just a few shareholders.

Lie 3: "The current NHS 'reforms' are all about giving patients more choice."

Survey after survey has shown that people are not so much concerned about choice but about having a good hospital near where they live. The reason New Labour keep emphasising choice is that they want hospitals to compete with eachother. You can't have the madness of the market in the NHS unless the 'consumers' make 'choices'.

Lie 4: "Payment by results is the most efficient way of delivering health care."

Hospitals have gone into deficit because of underfunding and privatisation. They then make cuts in services. But fewer services mean a reduced income and a bigger deficit.

Payment by results means it's impossible to plan ahead with a secure income. This is made worse by being forced by the government to hive off 15% of elective surgery to expensive private providers.

Lie 5: "Private companies can deliver health care cheaper than the NHS."

Health economists estimate that it costs about 12 billion a year to operate the market in the NHS. This is the cost of invoicing, management consultants financial 'rescue' teams, marketing, advertising and lawyers. None of this contributes anything to healthcare.

In the mid-1970s, before privatisation took hold, administration amounted to about 5% of NHS spending. Now it's 20%.

Lie 6: "Everyone is still guaranteed good quality healthcare, free at the point of use."

Pregnant women in Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea NHS Hospital in London are being asked for 4,000 to ensure they get a named midwife through their labour - recommended for all births. This is the beginning of unequal healthcare - distributed on the basis of ability to pay.

Lie 7: "All these changes are improving the health service. Anyway, the Tories made more cuts when they were in power."

"Patients are now going without care and suffering on a scale which has not been seen since before the inception and creation of the NHS in 1948 - all for the sake of the alleged gains to be had from 'market efficiency'". Allyson Pollock, a public health doctor and author of NHS plc.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 30 March 2006:

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Stop the NHS jobs massacre

New Labour's NHS lies

Call for NHS demo gets support

Huddersfield trust votes for cuts - but campaign gets stronger

Save jobs and beds at the Royal Free


Britain - Over one million strike for pension rights...

'Time for a new working-class party'

International socialist news and analysis

France - millions march for job security

USA: Millions march for immigrant workers' rights

Ukraine's 'orange revolution' goes pear-shaped

Will ETA's strategy lead to Basque national rights?

Socialist Party review

Paradise Now

Gordon's global gurus

Socialist Party campaigns

Why socialists oppose state funding of political parties

Local council services are still worth fighting for

Council elections: Great response in Lewisham

Stoke UNISON prepares for action against cuts

Strong support for minimum wage demand

Lambeth College students launch campaign against cuts

Save chemistry - sack the vice-chancellor!


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