THE FACT that the Tories are cutting closing and privatising the NHS is no secret. Neither is the fact that those who are engaged in planning this strategic task for the British capitalists are being paid handsomely to do the butchering.

In fact, as the Pulse magazine has revealed, one hundred and fifty consultants employed in drawing up the Tories’ ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ (STPs) were paid annual salaries that totalled over £8.5 million.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Chair of Council, responded to this by stating that this is a pay-out for ‘transformation plans’ that are designed as a cover to deliver £26bn in cuts to health and social care. Nagpaul added that, ‘This is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg as not all STPs have revealed their expenditure.’

The Unite trade union has also demanded that private ‘umbrella companies’ operating within the NHS must be banned. Unite states that ‘If a worker is employed via an umbrella company, they lose 46 pence in the pound of eligible earnings, through national insurance (workers have to pay employer’s national insurance contributions) and income tax.’

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘It is especially alarming that the NHS is aware that there are illegal umbrella companies operating in its environs and they are still not prepared to ban them.’ As well, perfectly legal robbery is taking place via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the scheme brought into being by ex-labour Leader Gordon Brown for companies to provide money for new hospitals and then charge fabulous annual fees.

The Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) publication studied 107 PFI contracts in England and found that such companies had made pre-tax profits of £831m in the past six years. Colin Leys, one of the chairmen of the CHPI, said: ‘Given the extreme austerity in the NHS, where patients are being denied treatment and waiting times for operations are rising, the government needs to take action to stop this leakage of taxpayer funds out of the NHS.’

Under such attacks, which amount to robbery with violence, it is no surprise that surgery waiting times are up by 400% in Wales since 2013. Five times as many patients in Wales are waiting more than a year for surgery compared to four years ago, the Royal College of Surgeons has said.

An RCS Freedom of Information request showed more than 3,600 patients had waited more than 12 months in March, compared to almost 700 in March 2013. Tim Havard, its regional director, described the steep increase as ‘very worrying’.

However, the management consultants are continuing to come up with policies for smashing the NHS and harming patients. Now they have come up with a plan to prevent thousands of patients getting as far as a hospital!

CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) are formulating plans to police GP practices’ referral systems to slash referrals to hospitals, and to financially reward (incentivise) a reduction of hospital referrals. A leaked NHS England memo shows that it has pledged to incentivise a 30% reduction in referrals. GPs are to be ‘incentivised’ to keep patients who would be referred to hospital for treatment away from such treatment. So much for the Hippocratic Oath!

Behind the CCGs is NHS England, Health Secretary Hunt, and the government. The NHS top management have instructed the CCGs to ensure that there is ‘clinical peer review of all referrals from general practice by September 2017’, and that this should be done on a weekly basis.

The May 2017 guidance ‘Elective Care High Impact Interventions: Clinical Peer Review’ says that there will be ‘significant additional funding’ for commissioners to establish GP peer review schemes this year. GP practices are to receive additional funding to keep patients away from hospital treatment.

NHS England states: ‘Significant additional funding is being given to regional teams in 2017/18 to roll out and spread interventions and schemes that will help CCGs to deliver a slower growth in referrals.’

It states that good practice would be for GPs to review each other’s new referrals, at least once a week. GPs are to be incentivised to police each other in order to prevent sick people from getting referred to hospital!

Enough is enough! GPs and the BMA must tell NHS England where to put their ‘incentivising’ and must demand the resignation of the NHS England bosses – at the least that would save millions in their wage costs.

Trade unions nationally must act to defend the NHS and the rights of NHS patients to be treated properly in hospital, at the point of need. As Aneurin Bevan said, the NHS would last as long as the people are prepared to defend it. This is why the TUC Congress that starts on September 10 must decide to take action to save the NHS from butchery. It must call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism. This is the only way forward!