Thursday, 10 February 2011

SOS: Save Our NHS

Are you aware of the Government’s plan to turn our NHS into a marketplace for profit, where your health needs and those of your family will increasingly be buried deep under contracts and deals involving private businesses whose prime concern is to make money? If more money is to be made from someone else, you might just find yourself slipping further towards the back of the queue.

The Conservatives said they would protect the NHS and claimed explicitly that under their watch, to avoid any unnecessary chaos, there would be “no more top down reorganisations”. But the Health & Social Care Bill, now being pushed through Parliament by the Conservative Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, would pile on a vast amount of extra management and financial responsibilities on groups of hard pressed GPs, deflecting them from giving the best care possible to their patients.

What’s more, in addition to bringing about unnecessary chaos, creating another centralised Quango, and wasting public money on management consultants, this Bill would ‘open up’ the NHS as a giant market for profit-driven businesses to exploit for their own gains. It’s no secret that Lansley was “bankrolled by the head of one of the biggest private health providers to the NHS” (as reported by the Daily Telegraph, 14 Jan 2010). Now these private companies could be given unprecedented opportunities to make money out of the NHS.

Lansley’s Bill would establish that the first and foremost duty of the health service regulator is to “promote competition”. It could provide extra incentives to bring new private operators into a market by insisting that GPs pay them a preferential price. Private companies would in turn be allowed to offer “loss leaders” to gain a foothold in the market before squeezing out not-for-profit NHS providers.

If Lansley gets his way, the current cap on the amount of private healthcare work an NHS trust can take on would be removed. Forced to compete with private businesses in making money to survive, more and more NHS trusts, staffed by doctors and nurses trained through the public purse, would have to look to increasing their income by prioritising private patients. They would also have to get business consultants in to help them make more money in the market system.

The Government has already given the go-ahead for NHS money to be spent on “commissioning support” from organisations such as United Healthcare (an American multinational) and management consultants KPMG. It also wants any surplus generated by NHS trusts to be available to pay out to GPs as bonuses instead of it being all ploughed back into patient care. This is at a time when the NHS budget already cannot even keep pace with inflation, and without any plan for reinvestment in the near future to build up the NHS, the new market system will determine which patient will lose out.

What Lansley has in store for us is nothing short of the profitisation of the NHS. If you’re not happy with this development, you should ask your local MP what their position is in relation to the Health and Social Care Bill. Their response should inform how you vote come the next election, which may happen sooner rather than later if the Government refuses to change the course of this stealth bomber against the NHS.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Beyond the Matrix

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. It’s a make belief world in which everything works perfectly without any need for regulation or publicly funded services. In this world, there is not a budget deficit because a previous government had to spend billions to protect savers, the economy and jobs when irresponsible bankers gambled away so much of other people’s money that they were at risk of going under and taking everyone else with them.

No, in the Matrix, it is not the deregulated bankers but the old wicked government which caused all the problems – squandering money on helping the sick, supporting the poor, nurturing the young, comforting the old, investing in jobs and preventing economic meltdown.

To protect the reign of the profit-makers, renegade champions of the common good (teachers, nurses, community development workers, or anyone with a name like Neo) are hunted down, privatised, and made to serve commercial masters. Public services will wither away, and every aspect of life will just get better and better in this big fat fabricated society.

But the Matrix can only be sustained by the false consciousness created by those who want us to remain subservient to the corporate machine. If you look carefully at this so-called reality where public value must be relentlessly sacrificed for private gains, you will begin to see the cracks appearing in their lies.

Of course it is in their interest to stop you scrutinising their dodgy projections. They want you to believe that there is no alternative, that everything will fall apart if they do not slash the life out of the public sector. They want you to accept without reservation that the only way forward is to count on the mercies of rich executives and beg for private charities.

And do you believe them?

As an old friend once said, the choice is simple. You take the blue option – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red option – you join us in seeing the Matrix for what it truly is, a monstrous deception that must be exposed and eradicated.

This is your last chance. Pledge your vote to those who will end this charade. And get others to do the same. Time is running out. There is no turning back.