Labour continues NHS privatisation offensive!

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LABOUR Health Minister Burnham yesterday officially launched the extended choice network, a new extended list of hospitals and clinics, that include 15 private treatment centres and 32 Foundation Trusts that NHS patients can choose from when they are referred for treatment by their GP.

Burnham said ‘We are putting patients in control’.

He added, attacking the NHS, that until new Labour created its health market the interests of patients had been ‘hampered by a centrally run health system that hasn’t always let them put their patient’s first.’

This is just a snidy, vicious and slanderous attack on an NHS system that was brought in at the insistence of the working class, and transformed the health of an entire nation since its inception, and is still treasured and supported by the working class.

The Department of Health press statement issued yesterday continued that ‘To assist the Department of Health with the future development of choice policy, Mr Burnham also today announced that Dr Mayur Lakhani, chairman of Council, Royal College of GPs, along with David Pink, Chief Executive of the Long-term Medical Conditions Alliance (LMCA), will co-chair independent reference group for patient choice drawn from a variety of stakeholder organisations. Its role will be to bring a wider perspective to policy development.’

This is how the LMCA, one of the co-chairs, describes itself. ‘LMCA is an independent organisation, funded by a variety of sources. They currently include members’ subscriptions, the Department of Health and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. We also have grants from trusts, support from companies and generate income from fees and publications.’

So, the Department of Health is making a body that it funds the co-chair of the ‘independent reference group’. It is also funded by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, that is the big drug companies. What kind of independence is this! The answer is none.

As well, it is a certainty that a number of private medical and drug companies figure on the list of stakeholders on the ‘independent reference group’.

Far from putting patients in control, Burnham is putting big business in control.

GPs get a fat fee for referring patients to the private sector, while the LMCA will not be able to ignore the interests of the organisations that fund it, including the government and the drug industry.

Patients are going to be referred to the ‘independent’ Foundation Hospitals, which are no longer under the control or ownership of the NHS, and are free to have financial relations with local banks and businesses, at the same time as they remain financed by the NHS.

They are also going to be referred to the private treatment centres, which get block financing from the government out of the NHS budget regardless of how much work they do.

In fact, the alleged ‘patients choice’ is going to be the instrument used by the Labour government to close down more and more ‘failing NHS hospitals’, turning the current river of NHS redundancies into a flood.

NHS trade unions and all trade unions must defend the NHS from this patients choice ‘Trojan Horse’ to smash it.

UNISON leader Dave Prentis’ recent statement that if his members chose to fight the union would back them, is clearly not good enough.

It must be replaced by a declaration that the UNISON trade union will not accept any NHS redundancies or closures, and will call action to stop them. UNISON, must seek the support of the BMA and the RCN for this policy and then go to the TUC General Council.

The NHS is a life-and-death question for the over seven million TUC members. The TUC must be made to call a general strike to stop the privatisation of the NHS and to bring in a workers’ government to defend and develop it.

This is the only way to defend the NHS and to stop its privatisation.