The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 19th February 2016
HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week decided to impose the unpopular and unfair new contract on junior doctors that will cut their overall pay by about £30 a week and force them to work at weekends without unsocial hours payments.
Many young doctors are threatening to quit and/or emigrate. Some already have.
But there is a long-standing agenda behind this, and doctors quitting is all part of the plan to kill the NHS and create a health service in Britain based on private insurance — as in the United States.
This plan goes back to the Thatcher years and indignation amongst the top Tories that the existence of the NHS was preventing private health insurers from making the same sort of fortunes that they could in the US.
Thatcher did not dare to make a full frontal assault on the NHS — it is far too popular. So in the back rooms and think tanks of the Tory party a long-term strategy was hatched.
The health unions and left-wing political activists spotted it straight away.
We protested in the 1990s when, under the John Major government, the NHS structure was broken up into separate trusts — all with their own management and accounting systems leading to massive duplication of office work.
In a very sneaky move the new hospital trusts were obliged to buy the land and buildings of the hospitals they controlled from the government — so they all started out heavily burdened with mortgages.
The trusts were set into competition with each other and then turned into “foundation trusts” — completely in control of their own budgets but vulnerable to go bankrupt if they got their sums wrong.
Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley instigated a massive cull of hospitals after the infamous King’s Fund Report in the early 1990s — claiming that large centralised hospitals could deliver a better standard of care, even though patients had to travel a long way from their homes whilst seriously ill to get there.
Then came the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) whereby new hospitals could be built and old ones revamped using money put up by private consortia. We protested again. By this time the Labour leadership, under Tony Blair, was backing the Tory slow privatisation strategy.
The PFI deals were mysterious things, kept secret from the public — who were paying for it all — because of “commercial confidentiality”. The terms and conditions were complex but basically the Government conceded to the PFI consortia clauses that would guarantee they made more and more profit whatever happened to the hospital. And, it seems, the land and buildings ended up as the property of the consortia. It’s one of those dark corners where it is impossible to get information.
Blair’s government steamed ahead with this and introduced the freedom for foundation trusts to buy health services from private contractors. These contractors specialised in doing large numbers of routine and minor operations that were usually without complications. These were profitable.
The difficult, complex and expensive cases were left to the NHS.
Then the 2012 Health and Social Care Act was another big lurch towards privatisation. All the commissioning of care — the purse strings — was put into commissioning bodies, which included general practitioners (GPs). The Tories sold it as freeing GPs to decide what was best for their patients but the GPs, predictably, have been too busy being doctors to be accountants also. So the commissioning bodies are dominated by business people who do everything they can to push NHS money to private healthcare companies.
Now they are doing their best to drive doctors — and next week it will be nurses — out of the NHS so that the standard of care will plummet. Then they will offer the disgruntled doctors better jobs in private healthcare companies — and offer the patients better care through private health insurance. And their job will nearly be done.
There is one big fly in their ointment — the real possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. And that could happen sooner than the four-and-a-half years until another general election must happen if the European Referendum leads to a collapse of Cameron’s premiership.
No wonder Hunt is totally ignoring public opinion regarding the junior doctors’ dispute and moving as fast as he can to complete the strategy to end the NHS. Pledging to save the NHS will possibly be the biggest factor in seeing Corbyn win the next general election.