‘NHS Not For Sale’

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Health workers show their opposition to the privatisation outside parliament yesterday
Health workers show their opposition to the privatisation outside parliament yesterday

‘NHS not for sale,’ angry health workers chanted outside parliament yesterday, as the Health and Social Care Bill got its second reading.

‘This bill is one further step towards NHS privatisation,’ midwife Rachel Voller told News Line. ‘People are not seeing what’s round the corner. There is commissioning, but the NHS is no longer the preferred partner.

‘I’ve spent time in the US and seen qualified nurses spend all day on the telephone to insurance companies and commissioners, to see if they could have an extra night’s stay in hospital or a different drug when it was clinically necessary.’

Staff Nurse John Anthony said: ‘These reforms will damage the NHS and rip out the national aspect. Patients are being told to choose their GP and GPs are being told they have to decide which drug is funded.

‘What the NHS needs is not major structural re-organisation, we need every penny spent on protective care, not a cut of £20 billion.

‘The NHS will not survive unless we stand up and fight for it.’

Susan Owenama, a psychiatric nurse, said: ‘We impact on the lives of our patients every day and it will be difficult to cope if there are job losses. The unions must organise a struggle to defend the NHS.’

Unison nurse Mary Locke from the West Midlands told News Line: ‘The NHS is the jewel in the crown of the Welfare State. Doctors are trained for over five years, they are not accountants.’

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary said: ‘This titanic reorganisation threatens to sink the NHS.’

Unison head of health Karen Jennings, said: ‘As more private companies pile in to grab their share of the £80 billion in taxpayers’ money, the NHS will change from a publicly run and accountable service, into a conglomerate of competing private companies outbidding the NHS for patients.’

Unison’s key concerns include:

• The reforms will be hugely expensive to implement at a time when the NHS is being told to save £20 billion.

• Money that should be used to improve patient care will bleed out of the system into the hands of private companies.

• The reforms will open the NHS up to EU competition law – once services have left the NHS, there is no going back.

• Turning the regulator Monitor into a utilities style watchdog like Ofgem or Ofwat is completely inappropriate for a service built on care and compassion. The NHS needs to be regulated for quality of care not for the sharpness of privateers’ elbows.

• The massive structural upheaval and institutional chaos could leave the NHS unprepared to cope with crisis situations such as the swine flu pandemic.

• A postcode lottery will be allowed to develop – with no guarantee that your local NHS will continue to fund treatments that are not sufficiently profitable. We are already beginning to see cash-strapped PCTs cutting back on important cataract, knee and hip operations.

• NHS patients will be pushed to the back of the queue, as hospitals will be able to raise unlimited cash from private paying patients.