THE CBI boss Richard Lambert spoke up yesterday at the CBI Public Service Summit to insist that the financial belt-tightening that the Brown government is insisting on means that the NHS must be privatised.
His message is, that in the face of the capitalist crisis, the privatisation of the NHS is absolutely vital for the capitalists and the bankers.
CBI director-general Lambert said yesterday that ‘It is exactly when a period of fiscal belt-tightening is upon us that we should strive to find innovative ways of delivering services and discuss new ideas that will help meet people’s desire for more and better services while being affordable to the country.’
Lambert also warned that trade union leaders would be seeking ‘to strong-arm the government into reversing reforms’, adding that the ‘public does not have a strong preference about which sector delivers public services. As long as services are of good quality and provided free at the point of delivery . . .’
The CBI therefore demands ‘increasing patient access to independent providers and introducing managed competition.’
He urged there should be ‘a full purchaser-provider split, with cosy arrangements between local primary care trusts and general hospitals ended, and all work and contracts awarded to the best available provider and not just the traditional local NHS service.’
Plus, ‘Ministers need to put in place a “failure regime” that smoothly handles the inevitable changes that a move towards more community and less hospital treatment will bring.’ This is the celebrated Labour government-CBI policy of closing District General Hospitals and replacing them with privately owned polyclinics.
Lambert further demanded in his speech: ‘As suppliers of public services from all sectors look to plan for the years ahead, we need equally clear signals from our political leaders about their plans and their preferences.’
The Brown government gets a big pat on the back from the CBI chief despite the bosses’ worries about trade union demands. ‘The government has often shown itself to be willing to pursue a reform agenda, but there are disparities between one area and the next. It would not, perhaps, be unfair to suggest that reforming zeal comes more easily to some ministers than others.’ To sustain this ‘reforming zeal’ is presumably why Lord Digby Jones, an ex-CBI chief, remains a minister under Brown.
The Tories do not get a 100 per cent approval from Lambert. His message is that the caring image is old fashioned. He said: ‘The messages from the Conservatives are also mixed. There is a strong commitment to making greater use of new providers from the private and voluntary sectors.
‘Yet conversely, there is often trenchant opposition to change. In health . . . the closure of a single GP surgery, regardless of the service it offers to patients, seems to be regarded as an act of heresy by some on the Opposition benches.’
The CBI admonishes the Tories: ‘The Conservatives must be clearer about their intentions. Any inconsistency sends confusing signals to the market at a time when private sector engagement and private sector investment is most needed.’
It warns the Tories to get real, and that ‘The danger is that mixed messages mean they may well think that their resources should be directed elsewhere, be it to other sectors of our economy or to the growing public service markets in other countries.’ It is not often that the bosses accuse the Tories of harming the interests of capitalism!
The CBI condemns both trade union agitation and the ‘misplaced nostalgia;’ of some Tories, presumably those such as Cameron and Osborn.
It lectures: ‘It is in all our interests that there is as diverse a supply market as possible for our public services. The one-size-fits-all, top-down, post-war consensus model of public service delivery should not be kept going artificially because of misplaced nostalgia or trade union agitation, even if the union is as respected as the BMA.’
The BMA now constitutes the red menace!
The extremist demands of the CBI and its closeness to the Brown government means that the trade unions must take action to defend the NHS and to smash the privatisation drive.
There must be a general strike to bring the Brown government down, and to bring in a workers government that will secure, defend and develop the NHS.