Democrat September-October 2008 (Number 110)
The NHS was set up to provide an integrated universal public healthcare service as a right, but over many years the NHS has been gradually dismantled and privatised. Why? All governments since 1973 have bound themselves to EU treaties which demand a policy of open market, free competition and free movement of capital – this includes health! The 1992 Maastricht Treaty also added a severe limit of 3% GDP on government borrowing and hence severely limited expenditure on public services.
Consequences of NHS privatisation
Elderly care, formerly a free NHS service, became an early victim of privatisation when care provision was transferred to cash strapped local authorities. Now, many in need of care pay a contribution or the full amount for their care in the private sector at a cost of hundreds of pounds weekly.
Then Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was introduced to keep new hospital building capital costs 'off the government books' (Maastricht effect) - but at vast unnecessary public expense. PFI hospitals are more costly and have fewer beds.
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) now contract out commissioning to big healthcare management consortiums such as US companies United Health and Kaiser Permanente. The increase in administration costs is around £10 billion each year.
Private Treatment Centres
These centres have been given special risk-free terms and are paid above NHS hospital rates to perform routine operations such as cataract removal and compete with hospitals for 'trade'.
These will be privately owned and another step in privatisation of the NHS.
The final privatisation blow is a new EU Healthcare Directive which according to former Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, "allows the rich to 'top up' NHS costs to get better treatment" and says the Directive will be catastrophic for the NHS if it goes through.
• Stop the EU Healthcare Directive becoming law here
• Take profit out of health, put patients first
• End waste of public funds on PFI schemes and healthcare commissioning companies
• Make local health services more accountable