Sunday, 19 June 2011

The NHS - Safe in their hands?

By Dick Symonds

No-one thinks sobut why do the Tories hate the NHS and persistently want to change it?

It wasn't always like this. The NHS and the Welfare State was the overwhelming democratic choice in 1945, when the country was nearly bankrupt and in hock to the USA. Some of the older among us will remember the basically decent Tories of the '50s and '60s, who were quite happy with the NHS the way it wasthe 'consensus on the welfare state', they called it. Times were different then. Society was more equal, wages were proportionally higher, unemployment was low and your job was secure, and that trend was continuing. This worried the super-rich, the controllers of the growing multinational corporations. The call came for a politics which would be more to their liking, which would end all regulation of the private sector, reduce the State to a minimum, control the unions, push down the wages and use the threat of unemployment to keep the working class in its place. Thus Margaret Thatcher, the present Tories and what is now called 'neo-liberalism'. Thatcher hated the NHS precisely because it proved the opposite: a superb public service, with a caring and not a commercial basis, for all the people and removed the need for money up front, administered by a strong and confident State

So, once secure, Thatcher started to change all that. First the commercialisation, providing more and more managers, making professional staff talk business mumbo-jumbo, setting up the silly game of pretending to be a real business, by having 'purchasers' and 'providers'. The powers of the Crown were removed, the efficient organisation of health authorities turned  into Trusts, run by failed businessmen and retired colonels, and our NHS property increasingly mortgaged to the future by loans from private finance. Given the chance, after the fall of the Tories, New Labour failed to make more than cosmetic changes (though put more money into the NHS, and did improve the service).

And so today, our unelected Coalition government wants to dispose of what we democratically constructed. It wants more of the business game, to give the private sector more power. This may start small, but it is in the nature of capitalism to grow like a cancer, and there is at present no effective barrier to international private health corporations gobbling up any local private health enterprises. The ultimate goal of the Tories, and some have stated as much, is to have a health 'systemlike the USA: where the poor can die in the street because they can't buy private health insurance, where the doctor is forbidden to prescribe treatments the insurers will not support, where 25% of the cost goes in administration. That's what private medicine means for the majority in the USA, whose biggest concern is that they will fall and for them it could mean destitutionMeanwhile the super-rich, the directors of the private health corporations, cream off the profits.

Our NHS is big and powerful, as big as the old Red Army, the Indian Railways and many small countries. Given the right political lead (or rather the left political lead), it could compete with any capitalist enterprise, by using its purchasing power, for bulk buying any medicines for example. No private corporation has such dedicated and qualified staff. We could strip out the whole commercial and business structure , make it democratically accountable, get rid of commissioning  and consortia, and have a planning department and the delivery service.

So what is the problem that the Tories want to solve? They say our population is growing older and this is the problem. Well, it has been for centuries and it should be a blessing: our NHS has to be preventative and keep people healthier in old age. They say our cancer detection and treatment is poorer that some EU countries, but it varies from year to year. And these constitute the problem for which the NHS is to be risked?

ñ  We, the people, have to give a resounding 'NO' to this unelected governments plan
ñ  The NHS is the Best of Britain: we'd be mad to let it go

Hands off our NHS!

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