‘Multinationals Bleed NHS Dry’

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Trade unionists and local campaigners fighting the massive cuts at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth outside Downing Street yesterday, where they handed in a 12,000-strong petition against 60 more bed closures in a £25m cuts package
Trade unionists and local campaigners fighting the massive cuts at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth outside Downing Street yesterday, where they handed in a 12,000-strong petition against 60 more bed closures in a £25m cuts package

‘The government is allowing multinationals to bleed the NHS dry,’ public sector union UNISON general secretary, Dave Prentis, said yesterday.

Private companies are raking in millions of pounds, leaving a black hole in NHS finances, warned UNISON.

UNISON said ‘the drain on the NHS is threatening its very survival’, and called for ‘time-out’ on government plans for more private sector involvement – and for ‘a full investigation into some of the obscene profits being made at the expense of the NHS.’

A new report published by UNISON yesterday, ‘In the Interests of Patients?’, charts the damage being done by ‘untested market reforms’.

Prentis said: ‘Wards and whole hospitals are threatened with closure. The jobs of nurses and health workers are disappearing. Newly qualified nurses and therapists are unemployed and desperate to put their training into practice.

‘£5bn is going into the Private Sector Treatment Centres that are at the root of the problems.

‘We have the obscene situation of NHS scanners and equipment lying idle while Trusts struggle to survive under the “payment by results system”, never knowing what their income will be.’

Prentis continued: ‘Hospitals must now compete against each other and have been told by government to spend some of their precious budget on advertising for patients.

‘Before the market gets a stranglehold on the NHS, we want a halt to privatisation and an independent review into the impact of the market on the NHS.’

The British Medical Association (BMA) also condemned the money spent on private companies.

Commenting on a survey by the doctors.net website, Dr Mark Porter, Deputy Chairman of the BMA’s Consultants’ Committee, said: ‘It is of major concern that a majority of respondents to this survey are saying that they do not believe the NHS has improved since 2002 and that they do not think the increase in NHS expenditure has been well spent.’

He added: ‘It is tragic that the government has used so much of the increased expenditure on wasteful initiatives like independent sector treatment centres and PFI.

‘The private sector has certainly done well out of the increased funding.’

BMA Chairman Mr James Johnson rubbished Blair’s call for round the clock use of operating theatres.

Johnson said there are two ‘stumbling blocks’ to this: ‘The first is that many parts of the NHS are broke.

‘If primary care trusts have run out of money, they clearly cannot buy a lot more operations. This, and the lack of staff, has already prevented extended working from happening in many parts of the NHS.’

Secondly, he warned: ‘Health professionals we have trained at enormous public expense are going overseas to find work.

‘Nurses are being hit particularly hard by the lack of jobs in the NHS and for doctors too the security of a job is by no means guaranteed.

‘For surgery to be performed over extended hours we have to have the skilled staff to do the work and there has been no adequate workforce planning to allow this to happen.’

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA consultants’ committee, added: ‘Patients don’t want to be treated as production line items, they want personal care.’

Bill Rogers, secretary of the North East London Council of Action, said: ‘Prentis’s call for a “time out” indicates a total paralysis in this UNISON leadership – a “time out’’ doesn’t stop the cuts and plans for more private sector involvement in the NHS.

‘That paralysis also indicates that they’re quite capable of accepting a continuation of this privatisation.

‘UNISON has got to do more than call for a “time out’’, it needs to call national strike action to call a halt to these cuts and privatisation.’