THE Coalition’s ‘blueprint’ for the privatisation of the NHS has suffered a set-back when it became clear last week that even supporters of privatisation are scared that, in its present form, it is provoking a backlash amongst doctors who threatened to ‘walk away from them’ and derail the entire drive to open up the service to the privateers.
The warning was spelt out last Friday by Dr Michael Dixon who heads the NHS Alliance and who helped draft the plans that are set out in the 75 regulations forcing the NHS to put every service out to private tender.
Writing in the medical journal Pulse, Dr Dixon said he feared that, by opening up most of the NHS in England to private firms, the government would alienate doctors and render the entire exercise ‘a complete waste of time’, adding that his worst fear was that GPs ‘will walk’. What worried him was ‘that it seems to put a duty upon the commissioner to go for competition with all contracts that are made’. He later told the BBC that getting the ‘right level’ of competition was vital.
Given that Dr Dixon was in at the beginning of these plans, it has to be said that he has taken some time to reach this conclusion; doubtless what prompted his fears was the letter signed by over 1,000 doctors which appeared in the Daily Telegraph also last Friday.
In this letter they state that the proposed legislation makes ‘virtually every part’ of the NHS open to private firms and makes clear their complete opposition to its implementation.
The entire strategy of the government has been to push through privatisation whilst at the same time professing an undying love for the NHS and denying any intention to privatise it.
With this blatant lie becoming so obvious that even its closest supporters in the medical profession couldn’t sustain it, there was a swift U-turn executed by Wednesday when health minister Norman Lamb told MPs that the wording of the regulations had ‘inadvertently created confusion’ and that they had been ‘badly drafted’, while still insisting that there was to be no privatisation of the NHS and that competition was ‘only a means of improving services, not an end in itself’.
The regulations are now to be withdrawn and redrafted.
This U-turn was greeted by the Unite union leadership as a ‘massive victory’ in the fight to save the NHS.
In their statement, Unite warn that the fight to stop privatisation must continue by ‘ensuring that the new wording of the 75 regulations is “bullet proof” and stops competitive markets sneaking into the NHS and private sector companies cherry picking the most profitable services’.
This is trade union reformism at its most imbecilic, not to say most treacherous.
How do you make regulations designed to open up the NHS to privatisations ‘bullet proof’ against private companies coming in and grabbing services? The short answer to that is that you can’t; all you can do, and all the Coalition intends to do, is to dress these regulations up to be a little less obvious and then proceed with the privatisations, while at the same time professing eternal loyalty to the NHS.
At a time when the government is absolutely hated by workers and almost the entire medical profession, this attempt to restrict the campaign to ensuring that privatisation regulations are ‘bullet proof’ or sending e-mails saying ‘Tell David Cameron to stand by his promises’ becomes a conscious betrayal of the NHS.
The only people Cameron listens to are the bankers who are demanding the NHS budget be transferred to them.
The only way to make the NHS ‘bullet proof’ from privatisation is to organise the general strike to bring down this hated government and advance to a workers government and socialism. This is the decisive role that the trade unions must play. The notion that the war can be won by regulations, bullet proof or otherwise, must be dumped in favour of action – that is the general strike!