By Bronwen Handyside Re-posted from Coalition of Resistance Against Cuts & Privatisation.
Despite no mention of the Health & Social Care Bill in Tory or Lib Dem manifestos, in spite of mass opposition from workers from top to bottom of the health service as well as thousands of health campaigners, the Coalition government has forced it through.
It is now law – the Health & Social Care Act.
• This Act has removed the government’s responsibility to provide health services equally to all – inevitably leading to one service for the rich, and another for the poor.
• The government’s demand for £20bn cuts in the NHS by 2014 means that health services are already being rationed. The Health & Social Care Act makes the situation far worse. NB: on top of this already impossible target, which is thrusting dozens of Trusts into debt, the government is now demanding a further £20bn of cuts by 2018.
• An overwhelming majority of health care professionals (including the GPs central to the changes) oppose the Act – because it means they will have to carry out the rationing of health care services.
Private healthcare companies have already begun to carve up the NHS.
As soon as the Act was forced through, private healthcare companies started securing thousands of commercial contracts up and down the country.
Hundreds of thousands of NHS staff are being laid off or transferred to private employers, services are merging and closing, and patients are doing without care unless they can afford to pay.
Primary care trusts in Sussex, Surrey and Devon have signed long-term contracts with Virgin Care worth £500 million that include care of the most vulnerable people including children, people with disabilities, and people with learning difficulties.
Despite the government mantra that the market provides choice – the citizens of Sussex, Surrey and Devon had no choice in the decision by Primary Care Trust bureaucrats to sell off the service to Virgin.
The government has made a special deal with the first private company (Circle) to take over an NHS hospital to ensure it can cream off profits before paying off the hospital’s debts. This means Circle has to make a £70million profit over the next decade on a hospital that is £38million in the red. The only way it can possibly do this is by slashing health workers’ wages and conditions. Ali Parsa, head of Circle, says the cuts will be “eye-watering”.
To add insult to injury – the legal system is designed to prioritise the needs of the market over the needs of ordinary people – so these rotten deals with private companies can be covered up in the name of “commercial confidentiality”.
As a result, Sussex, Surrey and Devon residents cannot find out how the decision was made to award the contract for their health services to Virgin, and nor can we find out what the deal is that the government has secretly made with Circle to guarantee profits for their shareholders (the majority of whom are venture capitalists and hedge fund managers).
See article by Public Health expert Allyson Pollock on the government’s use of “commercial confidentiality” to cover up the deal they made with Circle.
What you can do
• Support Unite the Union’s healthworkers taking strike action in defence of their pensions. Health workers’ pensions stand in the way of private companies taking over NHS services, as they cut down profits.
Come to a Public Conference for NHS Supporters to plan the way forward: Reclaiming Our NHS Saturday 23 June 2012, 10.30 am – 4 pm Friends Meeting House, Euston Road (opposite Euston train station), London NW1 2JB Organised by Keep Our NHS Public and NHS Support Federation
Click to go to Keep Our NHS Public campaign guide from False Economy