‘a Smokescreen For Wholesale Privatisation’

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Blackpool Health Unison members on the 500,000-strong TUC march against cuts on March 26
Blackpool Health Unison members on the 500,000-strong TUC march against cuts on March 26

Health unions yesterday condemned Cameron’s attempt to defend the coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill to privatise and destroy the NHS, as ‘the only option’ to save it.

In a speech on the Bill, at Ealing Hospital, west London, Cameron claimed: ‘There’s only one option we’ve got and that is to change and modernise the NHS, to make it more efficient and more effective and above all, more focused on prevention, on health, not just sickness. We save the NHS by changing it.’

Unison Head of Health Christina McAnea said: ‘David Cameron is taking the “national” out of the health service and turning it into a fragmented, money-spinning operation.

‘The Prime Minister is using extreme examples to paint an untrue picture.

‘He admits the NHS is providing the best service it has ever done, with reports saying it is the most efficient and equitable health system.

‘Cameron’s call to crack down on waste in the NHS is a smokescreen for a move to a wholesale market, which opens the NHS up to privatisation.

‘The real waste is the time spent on the fatally flawed reforms, which will force NHS patients to the back of a very long queue.

‘He talks about having more choice and protecting budgets, but health workers are seeing their jobs axed and wards, services and even entire hospitals lost without any arrangements to protect continuity of patient care.

‘Plans to move to any willing or qualified provider will cause instability and waste and lead to less patient choice in the long term.

‘The market approach will result in a huge hike in transaction costs and form-filling.

‘The time that doctors and nurses should be spending on caring for patients will be diverted away to this type of administration and managers will spend more of their time making sure their practices are not anti-competitive, rather than trying to save the NHS money.

‘There is a huge risk involved in ploughing ahead with these drastic NHS changes, when we know it isn’t necessary. The government must concentrate on dropping this deadweight Bill.’

The chairman of the British Medical Association, Hamish Meldrum warned that ‘the Health Bill as it is currently written’ will lead to ‘a more fragmented health service, with many hospitals at risk of closure.

‘Whilst we welcome his commitment to listening to staff and to taking them with him, most doctors will not feel able to support this Bill unless it is radically amended.’

Earlier he told the Today programme: ‘We believe that the bill has to be radically changed and probably so radically that, in essence, it would really be a different bill. It would be better to withdraw this bill and produce a new one.’

Appealing to the government to drop the Bill is whistling in the wind.

To save the NHS, unions must take strike action to defend jobs, occupy hospitals to stop closures and go forward to a general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a workers government.