IN JANUARY this year the Tory secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, told MPs that ‘there is no privatisation on my watch’ of the NHS, a solemn pledge that figures obtained this week show to have been yet another monumental Tory lie.
Not only has privatisation of NHS services continued under the Tories, the actual amount of NHS money being handed to private healthcare companies has reached record levels.
The Department of Health and Social Care gave an unprecedented £9.2 billion to private providers – according to the department’s own annual report – an increase of 14%, making the money handed to the privateers the highest ever.
Hancock’s pledge was followed in February by NHS England promising to repeal parts of the Tory Health and Social Care Act 2012 which laid the legal foundations for privateers like Virgin Care to compete for NHS contracts.
A win/win situation for the privateers, if they didn’t win the contracts they could go to court claiming ‘unfair’ competition from NHS in-house bids to win compensation from cash-strapped hospital services. None of these pledges from the Tories have had the slightest effect in reigning in the drive to privatisation which, as the figures show, has been proceeding at speed.
Paul Evans, director of the NHS Support Federation, said: ‘In response to criticism, failures and waste, the health secretary promised no further privatisation. But since then the outsourcing of NHS services has rolled on and more services have become reliant on the private sector to deliver their core services.’
Evans added that, despite assurances to halt the privatisation onslaught, ‘the government has done nothing to change the rules that force the NHS to advertise its contracts to the private sector.’
Last month Hancock, responding to an interview by US ambassador Woody Johnson (in which the ambassador told the BBC’s Andrew Marr the whole of the economy, including the NHS, would be ‘on the table’ in talks about a possible trade deal after Brexit), loudly protested that the NHS ‘is not for sale’.
What Hancock didn’t say is that the Tories are already selling it off to US private providers and their UK counterparts. Indeed, despite all their protestations, they have gone much further down the road of complete privatisation. In May, the Health Services Journal (HSJ) revealed that ‘Providers have been offered control of NHS budgets worth billions’.
According to the article, the private healthcare sector is central among those now being offered control of at least £2 billion of mental health cash – giving private companies responsibility not just for providing NHS services, but decision-making powers over commissioning budgets worth billions as well.
The private companies will now get to decide who gets the money to provide NHS services – NHS Trusts, charities or private companies.
While the US ambassador’s words were seized upon by all those opposed to Brexit as another justification for overturning the referendum result and staying within the EU, in fact, it was the EU and its European Court of Justice which actually pioneered the use of law to force through the privatisation of health across Europe, when the court ruled: ‘The fact that a health service is provided by a public hospital is not sufficient for the activity to be classified as non-economic.’
By classifying public health services as ‘economic activities’ the court opened up the health system across the EU to the discipline of the capitalist market place which demands these services be flung open to private competition regardless of the costs to patients’ health.
With the British ruling class split over whether it will be the servants of the US or the EU, it is clear that the NHS can only be defended by the working class taking its own independent action by organising a general strike to kick out this wreck of a Tory government and going forward to a workers government.
A workers government will expropriate the bosses and bankers, kick out the privateers, and advance to a socialist society that will guarantee a free at the point of delivery health service for all.
This is the only way to defend the NHS.