Thursday, July 29, 2010

NHS: Changes Or A Conspiracy Against The Public Interest

The Guardian

Seumas Milne
14 July 2010

"In reality, Lansley's health white paper opens the door to the comprehensive privatisation of healthcare and the end of the NHS as a national service. If the plans are taken to their logical conclusion, by 2015 the NHS will be little more than a brand. From a major public service with a million employees, it will have become a central fund with a minimal workforce, commissioning services from a string of private companies in a fully-fledged healthcare market.

"'The bottom line of this is the abolition of the NHS,' Dr David Price of Edinburgh University argues. "It will remove the government's duty to provide a universal healthcare service." His colleague, Professor Allyson Pollock, believes it will lead to "full privatisation". 

"The scale of what is being proposed has yet to sink in. By handing control of the bulk of NHS funds to England's 35,000 GPs to buy healthcare, the government hopes to divide the medical profession – who have mostly opposed privatisation – and appeal to patients, who feel more at home with local doctors than health trust bureaucracies.

"Meanwhile, all hospital trusts are to be turned into freestanding businesses outside the NHS. They will be allowed to go bust or taken over, encouraged to form "partnerships" with profit-making private companies and obliged to remove all limits on private provison. These new, independent trusts are supposed to be not-for-profit "social enterprises", but health policy experts scoff at the distinction when profits can be distributed as "surpluses" or extravagant salaries to directors.

"Why should anyone worry who provides healthcare? Because the weight of evidence is that private markets in health bring exorbitant administrative costs, lead to cherrypicking of more profitable patients, increase inequity and the postcode lottery gap, generate conflicts of interest, are unaccountable, and increase pressure for top-up payments and "care package" limits.
"The scandalous costs of creeping privatisation are already clear enough, from PFI projects to independent treatment centres. This year the Commons health select committee found administration costs had risen from 6% to 14% by 2005 as a result. They're certainly higher now – and are double that in the US, by some estimates. But now the coalition wants to put the NHS in the hands of the very health corporations that fought Barack Obama to a standstill over his attempt to bring universal health coverage to the US."

29 Jul 10

Exclusive: Local authorities have weighed in with support for a group of GPs who have accused their PCT of attempting to railroad plans to draft in private providers to run a local practice without consultation.

The intervention came after GPs moved to appeal against NHS Mid Essex’s decision to press ahead with an APMS tendering process for The New Surgery in South Woodham without seeking the views of either patients or local clinicians.
The case follows the precedent set in North London last November, when Pulse revealed that NHS Camden was forced to shelve plans to award a Darzi centre contract to a private firm after admitting it acted unlawfully by ‘making a decision to invest’ in without conducting a full public consultation on the proposal.

 This is worthy of a reprint:

NHS & A Conspiracy Against The Public Interest.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Can the minority sometimes be right?

"In life, should one maintain a narrow focus and stick to one’s own field, leaving the rest to the so called experts? Or should one have a broader outlook, as one can often learn from the mistakes of others."

I quoted near the end:

Seumas Milne 1 July,2009
“……In England's health service creeping privatisation is turning into a full-frontal assault as the government strains every nerve to give health corporations a bigger slice of the action: not only in buildings and maintenance, but diagnostics, elective surgery, GPs' surgeries, district nursing, health visiting and trust commissioning – regardless of the views of staff and patients; the evidence on cost, inefficiency and lack of accountability; and the corrosive impact on the NHS ethos.”

In the same article:

“……But corporate capture goes much further than lobbying. The revolving door that propels civil servants into the arms of companies for whom they previously set rules and signed off contracts was well established before New Labour came to power. But the process that saw Tony Blair's former health adviser Simon Stevens effortlessly transmute into European president of the US company UnitedHealth, or his foreign policy adviser David Manning collect a clutch of directorships, from Lloyds TSB to Lockheed Martin, has now become the norm.
What's new for Labour is the stampede of ministers for the revolving door. Since 2006, 37 former members of the government have been given permission to take private sector jobs within two years of leaving office. As with their Tory predecessors, many of these jobs involve working for companies directly bidding for government contracts and privatised services. They include Blair himself, of course, whose £12m annual income now includes multimillion contracts with banking groups JP Morgan Chase and Zurich Financial Services, in a sector lovingly protected during his time in office.
“But there are plenty of others. The ex-transport minister Stephen Ladyman took a job with the traffic information company Itis, pitching for Whitehall business. The former defence minister Adam Ingram signed up as a consultant for EDS, whose major clients include the Ministry of Defence. One-time home secretary John Reid works for G4S security services, which also does business with his old department.”

More to follow:

“Interestingly, former health ministers have done particularly well. The ex-health secretary Patricia Hewitt earns more than £100,000 as a consultant for Alliance Boots and Cinven, a private equity group that bought 25 private hospitals from Bupa. After leaving the department, her predecessor, Alan Milburn, worked for Bridgepoint Capital, which successfully bid for NHS contracts, and now boasts a striking portfolio of jobs with private health companies.”


A culture of corruption pervades the links between government and business, fuelled by and fuelling privatisation. These relationships are – as Adam Smith put it – a conspiracy against the public interest.

 “Despite catastrophic failures in the banking sector, the market is far from in retreat in the NHS. Reports in advance of a white paper suggest the coalition health secretary, Andrew Lansley, could be about to hand over the bulk of the NHS budget, around £80bn, to private corporations which will buy hospital and community health services on behalf of GPs.”


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