‘Smokescreen for NHS privatisation’ – Scrap the Health and Care Bill!

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Demonstration outside Parliament against the Health and Care Bill

THE government has been accused of using the pandemic as ‘a smokescreen’ to push through the Health and Care Bill which will open the floodgates for more NHS privatisation, the union Unite warned yesterday.

Unite, which has 100,000 members working in the health sector, said the bill, which has its Third Reading in mid-October, is a recipe for more privatisation and cronyism in England with an adverse impact for patients as waiting lists for treatments continue to soar.

Unite national officer for health, Jackie Williams, said: ‘The NHS is our greatest achievement and after a decade of underfunding and coping with the Covid-19 pandemic this bill is not the prescription we need.

‘Instead of helping our NHS, this bill invites private companies to make further inroads into our NHS to the detriment of patients and workers and gives the Secretary of State new powers to interfere in the work of health professionals.’

If the bill becomes law, it would allow so-called Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) to cherry pick services and undermine current working practices. APMS contracts are not in the interests of either the public or health care professionals.

Unite is emailing its members to write to their MPs urging them to vote against the bill dubbed a ‘Trojan horse’ for profit-hungry private healthcare companies.

Williams added: ‘APMS contracts have been described by legal professionals as “the private sector’s gateway to providing primary health care to NHS patients.” They allow companies that are not owned or controlled by medical professionals to run GP surgeries.

‘This bill is deeply flawed and creates pathways for health systems that are based on models developed by the private insurance industry in the USA and elsewhere, with profit as the key priority.

‘Such an approach would undermine the universal and patient-driven service that we have all cherished since the NHS’ formation in 1948.

‘Ministers’ appetites for further NHS privatisation are undiminished and it is clear that they are cynically using the continuing pandemic as a smokescreen for accelerating NHS privatisation. They have not learnt the lesson of the PPE scandal when lucrative contracts were fast-tracked to the ‘friends’ of the Tory establishment.

‘The Tories have short memories and forget the adverse impact of the disastrous 2012 Health and Social Care Act, promoted by then health secretary Andrew Lansley, which caused the fragmentation of the NHS and was an “open sesame” for the private sector.

‘The proposed legislation is a Trojan horse for more privatisation, cronyism, NHS cuts and a licence for politicians to run down and sell-off the NHS.

‘Attempting to drive this through, while we are still in the middle of a pandemic, with an estimated 5.4 million on the waiting lists in England and vacancies in the health service running at an estimated 90,000, is a disgrace.

‘The focus for this Tory government should be addressing the staffing crisis, and deskilling through associate roles is not the answer.’