Back to Front - Political Economics
WORKERS, JULY 2006 ISSUE
The National Health Service, according to government figures, now has a deficit of £1.3 billion. London has a deficit of £213 million.
The economic crisis stems solely from the government's policies: its pursuit of the market economy in health, its tariffs for operations and health provision, payments by results, the artificial transfer of service provision into the grossly inflated and expensive private sector, the fallacy of patients' choice, its pursuit of targets over NHS professionalism, the so-called modernising agenda intended to establish Foundation Trust status as the norm by 2008 solely to advance the cause of privatisation.
This is to leave aside the bickering between Blair and Brown, both trying to use the NHS as their personal vehicle of vendetta. It is also to leave aside the £2 billions creamed off in private consultancy (non-medical) fees. It is also to leave aside the estimated £43 billion disappearing in Private Finance Initiative schemes (in plain English, scams). It also leaves aside the millions wasted in contracting out, out sourcing and off-shoring of NHS non-medical services, and the £700 million wasted in agency staff.
Meanwhile, the NHS enters something like its 21st national reorganisation in as many years with the Commission for a Patient Led NHS – which will see Strategic Health Authorities slashed. One result: London will go from five of these authorities to one, and from 600 jobs to 150.
Primary Care Trusts are slashed from 303 to 152, all in the name of 'modernisation'. This modernisation will continue to see wards closed, jobs cut, services cut.
MRSA was not a natural disaster that swept through hospitals. It was directly linked with a reduction of more than 50% in hospital cleaning staff and privatisation of hospital cleaning leading to hospitals becoming unsafe, dirty and unprofessional. The modernisation agenda, the re-profiling of services, the re-defining of provision will result in a disaster of a greater scale.
In the midst of all this, NHS Logistics is to be sold off. NHS Logistics is the body that helps supply all parts of the NHS with items crucial for the day-to-day running of the service, particularly in supplying medical and other items to hospital wards. It has six depots across the country and employs more than 1,300 staff. No complaint has been made against this organisation, its work is of a high standard, and last year alone it returned £3 million to NHS Trusts as a result of its operations. None of this has saved it from the mad rush to privatise.
Worse, the government has decided to sell the company to a consortium including an American firm, Novation. While this is bad enough – virtually nothing about the American healthcare system recommends itself – Novation is under active investigation by the American Senate, and has been for four years.
A Senate sub-committee is examining the case for introducing legislation in America to tackle allegations of anti-competitive practices among American group purchasing organisations, of which Novation is one of the most powerful.
So in the name of introducing "competition" unnecessarily into the NHS, Blair is seeking to bring in an anti-competitive company from America!