WITH less than three weeks to go before the start of the Tory-led coalition government’s plan to open up the entire NHS to the private health company vultures, it has been confirmed that there is a ‘potential’ conflict of interest between those GPs jumping on the privatisation bandwagon, and patient care.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has highlighted facts about the composition of the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that will take over from local primary care trusts on April 1st, and will take on the job of handing out contracts for the provision of health services, and also be responsible for an NHS budget of £65 billion a year.

The BMJ points out that of the GPs who dominate these bodies, and who have a massive say about who gets awarded clinical contracts, one in three run or have shares in private health companies.

Of the 176 CCGs they were able to get information about, the BMJ discovered that out of 2,426 members, including local GPs, 555 had a financial interest in private health care providers.

All this adds up to the fact that the new commissioning bodies that are responsible for the vast majority of the NHS budget will be stuffed to the brim with GPs and others who have a financial stake in privatisation and who have sole responsibility for where these lucrative contracts are placed.

The response of the British Medical Association to this scandal was simply to call for ‘safeguards against possible conflicts of interest’.

The chairman of the BMA GPs Committee, Dr Buckman, said: ‘We support the principle of greater clinician involvement in commissioning, but it must not come at the expense of patients.’

He also called for GPs who have financial interests in private health firms to ‘seriously consider their membership of CCG governing bodies’.

Presumably these GPs have already seriously considered their position and appeals by the BMA will not make the slightest difference.

The call for regulations to somehow prevent a conflict of interest was dismissed out of hand by Dr Michael Dixon, president of the NHS Clinical Commissioners and the man who, as head of the NHS Alliance, helped the government draft the regulations forcing the NHS to put every service out to private tender. He said: ‘The fear of perceived conflicts of interest must not become a dead-hand stopping new and innovative service development and the ability of CCGs to deliver services in new settings.’

The Labour shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, also joined the call for regulations, stating:

‘These revelations will fuel growing fears about the back-door privatisation of the NHS arising from the government’s re-organisation.’

The fact is that this is not back-door privatisation. These CCGs open the way for the privateers to kick in the front door, march right into the NHS and lay waste to it through closing down ‘unprofitable’ hospitals and services, and forcing in private medicine.

No amount of regulations over conflict of interests can halt this process.

All those in the trade union and Labour Party leadership who peddle the line of opposing privatisation in words, while restricting their opposition to calls for regulating the entire privatisation process, are in practice completely supporting it.

The only way to stop privatisation and the destruction of the NHS is to demand that these trade union leaders cease this posturing and immediately call industrial action to prevent closures and privatisation by whatever means necessary – including occupations and national strike action leading to bringing down this hated government and replacing it with a workers government that will guarantee a national health service free at the point of delivery.

Those leaders who refuse to lead such a fight must be removed and replaced by a new leadership that is prepared to do what is necessary.