Brits battle health service privatization

LONDON (Morning Star) – Relentless criticism of British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s National Health Service reforms showed no signs of dying down on Tuesday after the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Unite union joined other campaigners in speaking out against the “Liberating the NHS” white paper.

It followed the full-scale denunciation of the white paper by the British Medical Association, Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and campaign group Health Emergency.

The GPs not only questioned the speed and cost of the plans but warned of a possible “erosion of the crucial relationship” between doctors and patients.

They also raised “grave” concerns about the use of private companies to run NHS services, warning they could undermine the essential ethos of the NHS to provide high-quality health care, free at the point of use.

Groups of GPs will control £80 billion (in U.S. dollars: more than $127 billion) of the NHS budget and commission services from 2013 under the plans.

But Unite warned the white paper will give a green light to the rapid privatization of the health service and said it has no democratic mandate from the public.

The union has launched a campaign opposing the reforms and the wider Conservative-Democrat cuts being inflicted on the health service.

Unite national officer for health Karen Reay said: “If you join up the dots in the white paper, the menu on offer is unpalatable: rapid privatization, lack of proper public consultation, a reduction in services as the contract culture starts to bite and poorer employment conditions for hard-working NHS staff.

“The impact of these proposals will be far-reaching – the speed at which they are being introduced and implemented, without any democratic mandate from a public that has not been properly and genuinely consulted with.”

The union believes the health service will be transformed into a marketing logo as services are provided by a myriad of competing businesses trying to maximize their profits.

It warned that this will lead to inequalities and services only given to those who can afford it.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We don’t agree that the scale of reform is unjustified, it’s a necessity.”

This article was originally published at Morning Star.

Photo: Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, National Health Service, in Liverpool, England. (Sue Adair,, from Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.0)