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Democrat - May 2009 (Number 113)

How the EU Operates

Privatisation of the NHS

NHS Privatisation

The European Single Market which includes the “free movement of services” is being applied to the NHS in several ways. EU legislation comes in the form of policies, directives and regulations which are imposed on Member States. Most of this is done without any debate and certainly little public knowledge.

The NHS is being subjected to competition by private contractors and transnational corporations. GP surgeries, hospitals and health services are being privatised in one form or another. The government says it will help inject choice and contestability into the system and allow patients better informed decisions as to where they are treated. The real aim is nothing less than to transform the NHS of universal healthcare system into a carved up insurance based privately-controlled unaccountable US type “managed care” setup.

   Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) are now the only method available to set up contracts for GP practices and the much-hyped network of polyclinics. Primary Care Trusts (PCT) can commission services from privateers and GPs. However, according to the BMA the system is “stacked against” GP surgeries which are not able to compete with US companies such as United Health and Atos Origin. EU procurement regulations have to be adhered to and only one in ten GP surgeries were successful in bidding for half these contracts.

   A consultation process was put in place but has turned out to be a sham because coercion was being used to foster a market rather than encouraging continuity of care. The give away can be found in the government pushing through sites for polyclinics before the consultation had taken place.

   Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said that both PFI and quasi-PFI NHS Lift in primary care development. As nearly everybody recognises, except the government, PFI has been a drain on the public purse and a “milch cow” for the private sector. PFI projects are now at a standstill or in deep financial trouble. For example,LIFT is a company under the control of privateers and heavily subsidised. This deflects money from primary care spending.

   PFI was originally used for capital contracts such as new or refurbished hospitals but has now been eased into clinical services.

   It is forecast that the transfer of GPs from the NHS to privateers practices will result in one doctor only being trained in general practice. Other doctors in these practices could come from the surplus of junior doctors who were unable to gain training posts. It is also a way of using the market to press down doctors’ wages.

   Patients most in need will constitute the greatest risk, and can hardly expect to be well served by the cost containment and “cherry-picking” characteristic of the US model which privatisation will bring. Commercialisation has already been established in long-term care, independent treatment centres, mental health, pharmacy and dentistry.
   The head of the Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP) hearing the public's views in the current consultation process about introducing privateers into the NHS seems to have written his conclusion. CCP Chairman Lord Carter has declared that "a more competitive market for health services is inexorable" and believes that the only issue that remains to be discussed is "the speed with which it happens. I don't think we are going to see tooth-and-claw competition next week, but ultimately most things will be contested," he said. In other words most facilities will be in private hands.

   Campaign Health Emergency director John Lister says the CCP intends to accelerate the drive to carve up the NHS by "intervening on behalf of aggrieved private-sector companies to force primary care trusts to put services out to tender and prevent NHS trusts co-operating to provide a comprehensive service for local people."

   He warned these changes could trigger more scandals like the one in the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and said: "If the public knew how ministers were planning to break up and flog off local services and bring in grasping private-sector providers, they would be furious.

   "All the evidence so far is that privatisation does not work anywhere in the world and that integration and collaboration are the best way to achieve quality care," Mr Lister insisted.

   The thrust of privatisation is to switch the cost direct to peoples’ pockets and away from the public money purse raised in taxes and held by the government on our behalf. Privatisation means democratic accountability will also be thrown out of the window.

   You can still put your objections to privatisation before 30 April 2009 to your MP and in the consultation process.

   Introducing the market place into the NHS will break down co-operation between doctors, hospitals and clinicians to the detriment of healthcare. What is needed  is the removal of privateers from the scene altogether.

   Trade unions have made the following demands:

£1.5 billion a year for the NHS to employ 50,000 more hospital cleaners

Reversal of staffing cuts

£2bn a year for local authorities to help to provide daily home care visits to 370,000 people now denied help. This would also create 80,000 jobs.

Keep our NHS Public website

healthemergency website