- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat(Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
Connectivity problems continue …
The Health and Social Care / Destroy the NHS Bill is drawing to an end. There are two last-minute attempts to derail progress of the bill. Lord David Owen is trying to postpone the Lords’ third reading of the bill tonight until after publication of the risk register. The Labour party have succeeded in tabling an emergency debate tomorrow again about the government’s refusal to publish the risk registers.
Labour have forced a Commons debate on whether Parliament can consider planned NHS changes for a final time before an assessment of the potential risks to the health service is published.
It will take place on Tuesday after being granted by Speaker John Bercow.
Critics are attempting to scupper the Health and Social Care Bill – currently in its final stages in the Lords.
While in public they have been presenting themselves as the future of the NHS, a Corporate Watch investigation into the accounts and finances of five of the major private healthcare companies has found widespread use of tax havens,* including the British Virgin Islands, Luxembourg, Jersey, Guernsey and the Cayman Islands, and tax avoidance schemes Barclays or Vodafone accountants would be proud of.
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- Spire Healthcare, the UK’s second largest private healthcare company, is channelling £65m a year through a Luxembourg subsidiary of Cinven, its private equity owner, almost wiping out its taxable UK earnings.
- Care UK, which operates NHS treatment centres, walk-in centres and mental health services across England, is reducing its tax liability by routing £8m a year in interest payments on loan notes issued in the Channel Islands.
- Circle Health, the self-styled “social enterprise” that became the first private company to take over the management of an NHS hospital, is owned by companies and investment funds registered in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Cayman Islands.
- Ramsay Health Care, the company with the greatest number of healthcare provision contracts in the NHS, has used a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands to finance the purchase of a French health company for its Australian parent company.
- General Healthcare Group, the biggest private hospital group in the UK, has registered the ownership of its hospitals through subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands, potentially avoiding stamp duty when its owners come to sell. Its corporate structure may also mean its owners will not pay UK capital gains tax.
Spire, Care UK, General Healthcare Group and Ramsay** are all carrying significant levels of debt after their owners financed their acquisitions through borrowing. The interest being paid to banks and bondholders – which is far higher than the government would be paying for equivalent sums – is also serving to reduce taxable profits.
All of the companies investigated have been lobbying in support of the government’s health reforms, which they hope will increase their share of NHS work and the amount of patients paying for private healthcare.
If accused of tax avoidance the companies will reply that everything they do is legal. As the accounts of their offshore subsidiaries are not publicly available – and the companies have not responded to Corporate Watch’s requests to see them – it is impossible to dispute that. But being legal is not the same thing as being right, and the government’s promises that companies can be regulated into doing a good job for the NHS are further undermined with evidence of how easily they are getting round the tax obligations that should help pay for it.
Group of 240 healthcare professionals warn that health and social care bill is ‘embarrassment to democracy’
As the legislation faces its final hurdle in parliament on Monday, a group of 240 healthcare professionals, including 30 professors, said in a letter to the Independent on Sunday that the health and social care bill was an “embarrassment to democracy” and pledged to stand as candidates against MPs who backed it.
The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is expected to be among the MPs targeted, as well as the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
The letter was organised by Dr Clive Peedell, a cancer specialist and the co-chair of the NHS Consultants Association, who said the intention was to field as many candidates as possible at the election, with other supporters acting in administrative and fundraising roles.
The letter said: “It is our view that coalition MPs and peers have placed the political survival of the coalition government above professional opinion, patient safety and the will of the citizens of this country.
“We are shocked by the failure of the democratic process and the facilitating role played by the Liberal Democrats in the passage of this bill.”
Richard Taylor, the retired consultant who was elected as an independent MP for Wyre Forest in 2001 in protest at the downgrading of his local hospital, said he was advising the doctors.
Royal College of Physicians poll shows widespread opposition to shakeup, with abundant fears about privatisation of servicesBritain’s hospital doctors want the coalition’s controversial NHS shakeup to be scrapped, with many fearing it will lead to health services being privatised, a poll has revealed.
Almost seven in 10 members of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents hospital doctors, want the health and social care bill withdrawn.
The findings of the RCP’s poll of its members’ views on the bill are another blow to ministers’ efforts to convince doctors their plans are right, and are a significant addition to the medical community’s almost unanimous opposition to it.
The RCP polled its 25,417 fellows and members. Of those, 8,878 responded (35%). The survey followed the college’s recent extraordinary general meeting to decide its stance on the bill, after some members said it was not being robust enough in its opposition.
When asked for their personal views of the bill, 69% (6,092) said they rejected it as it stood; only 6% (525) accepted it; 22% (1,971) said they “neither completely accept nor completely reject it”; and the other 3% (290) did not offer an opinion.
What Britain now has is a blue-orange coalition, with the little-knownOrange Book forming the core of current Lib Dem political thinking. To understand how this disreputable arrangement has come about, we need to examine the philosophy laid out in The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism, edited by David Laws (now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury) and Paul Marshall. Particularly interesting are the contributions of the Lib Dems’ present leadership.
Published in 2004, the Orange Book marked the start of the slow decline of progressive values in the Lib Dems and the gradual abandonment of social market values. It also provided the ideological standpoint around which the party’s right wing was able to coalesce and begin their march to power in the Lib Dems. What is remarkable is the failure of former SDP and Labour elements to sound warning bells about the direction the party was taking. Former Labour ministers such as Shirley Williams and Tom McNally should be ashamed of their inaction.
Clegg and his Lib Dem supporters have much in common with David Cameron and his allies in their philosophical approach and with their social liberal solutions to society’s perceived ills. The Orange Book is predicated on an abiding belief in the free market’s ability to address issues such as public healthcare, pensions, environment, globalisation, social and agricultural policy, local government and prisons.
The Lib Dem leadership seems to sit very easily in the Tory-led coalition. This is an arranged marriage between partners of a similar background and belief. Even the Tory-Whig coalition of early 1780s, although its members were from the same class, at least had fundamental political differences. Now we see a Government made up of a single elite that has previously manifested itself as two separate political parties and which is divided more by subtle shades of opinion than any profound ideological difference.