THE ENDLESSLY repeated slogan that ‘The NHS is Not for Sale’ is completely empty in the face of the fact that US companies and other privateers are already taking over and making vast profits out of the NHS and are determined to leech even more out of the NHS £120 billion annual budget.
Indeed, despite all the protestations from Boris Johnson that the NHS is ‘safe’, only this week it was revealed that the Chesterfield hospital in Derbyshire has put its decontamination unit out to private tender, with the US Steris Corporation named as preferred bidder. Steris is based in Ohio but has a registered company in Dublin.
This device is used by US companies to get round the requirement for private companies bidding for NHS contracts to have a base in an EU country.
Alternatively, they simply buy up an existing UK health company in order to get their hands on NHS money.
US privateers are not only bidding for contracts like this with individual health authorities – an entire part of the NHS is under the domination of US health providers who are making huge profits from looting the NHS.
The mental health provision by the NHS is now almost entirely run by US corporations. In 2016, Acadia, a Tennessee-based health giant, bought the Priory Group for £1.3 million. The Priory Group provides mental health care facilities across the UK in more than 500 sites and over 7,000 beds.
In its last annual report, Acadia boasted that in just three months it had earned more than £188 million from the NHS saying: ‘Demand for independent sector beds has grown significantly as a result of the NHS reducing its bed capacity and increasing hospitalisation rates.’
Operating profits at Cygnet Health Care (a subsidiary of the US Universal Health Services) another private provider of mental health services surged to £45.2 million from deals with 228 NHS purchasing bodies.
Another private US-backed mental health company Elysium, which was launched only three years ago, is already earning revenues of £61.2 million from 55 units in the UK.
These three private companies own 13 of the 16 mental health units judged ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission. Three fifths of mental healthcare beds in the UK are owned by US companies who made £1.8 billion out of the £13.8 billion spent on mental healthcare last year.
If mental healthcare is now largely ‘owned’ by US companies, the same is happening throughout the NHS. In Manchester, about 13% of in-patient beds are provided by US companies, a figure that reaches one in four beds in Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucestershire.
According to research by the GMB union, £14.7 billion of outsourced NHS contracts went to the privateers. In 2019 alone, £3.3 billion has gone to private corporations.
All the talk of the NHS not being for sale is rubbish – many parts of it have already been sold off mainly to US companies. This privatisation of the NHS is not caused by Brexit and certainly won’t be stopped by staying in the EU.
Privatisation was given impetus by the Labour government of Blair and Brown when they introduced the private finance initiative into the NHS and has been driven at breakneck speed by the Tories since 2010 with their Health and Social Care Act, which forced the NHS to put its services out to tender.
Being a member of the EU has done nothing to stop NHS privatisation. Indeed, the EU is actively promoting privatisation of health services in Europe by designating them as an ‘economic’ activity rather than a social necessity.
There is only one way to call a halt to the destruction of the NHS and that is to kick every last privateer out of the NHS, expropriate the giant pharmaceutical companies and provide as much funding for the NHS as required to ensure the health of everyone.
Capitalism driven solely by its hunger for profit can no longer live with a free NHS – the only answer is to put an end to this bankrupt system by expropriating the privateers and bankers and go forward to socialism.