NHS news review

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.

GPOnline Editorial: Time for the new health secretary to listen to GPs

Few GP tears are likely to be shed at the departure of Mr Lansley, whose Health and Social Care Act became law earlier this year.

Mr Hunt’s promotion is curious because health is not a subject in which his expertise is renowned and he has also been under recent pressure for his handling of the BSkyB takeover bid.

There have also been changes at the top of the BMA. GPonline last week revealed that retired GP Dr Kailash Chand, an outspoken critic of Mr Lansley’s vision, had been elected deputy chairman. Dr Chand was uncompromising about Mr Lansley’s two-year reign as health secretary, describing him as doing an ‘utterly miserable job’.

Away from the corridors of Richmond House, Westminster and BMA House, 212 clinical commissioning groups covering the entirety of England are undergoing authorisation by the NHS Commissioning Board to take over from PCTs from April 2013. The BMA and other unions are at loggerheads with the government over proposed NHS pension changes and ministers are expected to give the go-ahead imminently to revalidation of GPs.

There’s a great deal for the BMA and the RCGP, thanks to the profile-raising work of its chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada, to discuss with Mr Hunt.

Mr Lansley spent many years shadowing the health secretary and it seems likely that his opinions may have been more firmly entrenched than Mr Hunt’s. The BMA and the RCGP should waste no time in seeking to put their views to a fresh pair of ears.

NHS staff in fear of pay cuts

 

HEALTH workers believe that plans to introduce regional pay and conditions would have a “devastating” impact on their lives.

A survey by union Unison of 1,000 NHS employees in the South West showed almost all were concerned about the prospect of pay cuts, increased hours and performance-related pay being introduced by a group of 20 health trusts, including Bristol and Weston’s hospital trusts.

Unison describes the South West NHS Pay Consortium as a cartel and says some members it surveyed would have to cut down on essentials such as food, and might not be able to pay their mortgage, if their wages were cut following years of pay freezes.

The union was due to lobby MPs today on the “dangers” of introducing regional pay and conditions.

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, said: “This survey shows that the South West pay cartel’s plans could push health workers in the region to breaking point. They are worried about the impact on their families, but also what these changes would mean for their patients.”

 

UK politicians gain from privatising National Health Service

 

Social Investigations, an independent news blog offering research on political matters of social interest, has compiled an extensive list of British MPs and members of the House of Lords who are set to gain from the ongoing privatisation of the National Health Service.

As this year’s Health and Social Care Bill was being debated and voted on in both houses, more than 200 parliamentarians held financial interests in businesses involved in private health care.

Hedge fund boss John Nash, chairman of Care UK, has over the past five years donated £203,500 to the Conservative Party. Back in 2009, it was a donation by Nash of £21,000 that helped fund Andrew Lansley’s “personal office”—from 2010 until this week, health secretary in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

Last year, some 96 percent of Nash’s Care UK’s business, amounting to more than £400 million, came from public money channelled via the NHS. City firm Sovereign Capital, also founded by Nash, runs a string of private health care firms.

Lansley was also sponsored by other players in the health care industry. In 2008, he received a donation from Julian Schild used to support his office in his capacity as shadow secretary for health. Julian Schild’s family made £184 million in 2006 by selling hospital bed-maker Huntleigh Technology.

Landsley’s wife, Sally Low, according to a February 2011 article by the Daily Telegraph, is the founder and managing director of Low Associates. Her company web site boasted pharmaceutical companies SmithKline Beecham, Unilever and P&G among its clients. This information was swiftly removed amid her insisting that her company does not work with corporations that have an interest in the health sector.

Social Investigations highlighted another influential Tory donor as Nash’s business partner, Ryan Robson. To date, Robson has donated a total of £252,429 to the Tories, £50,000 of which was given to position himself as a member of the party’s “Leader’s Group”, a cash-for-access club.

Back in 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron, shortly after taking office, gave private care home tycoon Dolar Popat a peerage. Lord Popat is reported to have donated £209,000 to the Conservative Party. Of this figure, £25,000 was registered as a donation a week after the Tories’ health reforms were unveiled.

Fellow Tory Lord Ashcroft has also gained from the government’s NHS recruitment freeze. Over the last three years, his company Medacs has benefited to the tune of £7 million by providing agency staff to cover the 28,610 jobs lost as a result of Lansley’s ban on NHS recruitment.

The Labour Party has its own ties to private health care. McKinsey & Co, which drew up many of the proposals finally accepted into the Health and Social Care Bill, paid David Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and brother of the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, £10,000 in February 2010 for a speech at a Global Business Leaders Summit. This was the same year that he was positioning himself for the leadership of the Labour Party in a contest lost to his brother. In March 2011, he received a further £10,044 from the same company for travel expenses and accommodation in Singapore.

Alan Milburn, the former health secretary under Labour, was a consultant for Alliance Medical’s parent company. Alliance Medical runs diagnostic services for the NHS, including in Birmingham and Falkirk. In 2008, his registered parliamentary interests highlight that he was a member of Lloyds pharmacy’s Healthcare Advisory panel and was paid in the region of £30,000.

Also in 2008, Milburn was a member of the European Advisory Board of Bridgepoint Capital Limited, the private equity firm that acquired Care UK.

Labour’s Lord Peter Mandelson was also registered as late as May 2012 as a senior advisor to an international advisory investment bank known as at Lazard Ltd, which holds corporate interests in private health care.

Since 2004, the Liberal Democrats have received donations to the tune of £440,000 from Alpha Healthcare Ltd. In 2010, the year they entered into coalition with the Conservatives, £125,000 was donated to fund Nick Clegg’s party by Alpha Healthcare. In 2004, the director of the company, Bhanu Choudhrie, made two donations of £10,000, and a further £20,000 in 2008. His father, Sudhir Choudrie, in 2006 made donations totalling £95,000. This donation was gratefully received by the Liberal Democrats, despite several cases being filed by the Confederation of British Industry alleging his use of manipulation and bribery in defence purchases.

These are the politicians the trade unions insist can be persuaded to turn away from privatisation and preserve the NHS by applying a little moral pressure.

 

 

We do want to break up the NHS. We don’t want to privatise it, we want to break it up.”  Nick Clegg.

 

Nick Clegg’s demand for the NHS to be broken up

Opponents said the comments about the NHS, in a 2005 interview in the Independent, showed that Mr Clegg had no understanding of the way the health service works.

In the interview, carried out while Charles Kennedy was leader and two years before Mr Clegg took the job, he said: ‘I think breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do to make it a more responsive service.’

Asked whether he favoured a Canadian or European-style social insurance system, he said: ‘I don’t think anything should be ruled out. I do think they deserve to be looked at because frankly the faults of the British health service compared to others still leave much to be desired.

‘We will have to provide alternatives about what a different NHS looks like.’

Under a social insurance system, members pay into an insurance scheme, either themselves or through an employer, to guarantee their healthcare. It means that those who pay into a more expensive scheme can get better care.

Under the NHS, however, everyone pays into the same scheme through taxes – and is then guaranteed care that is ‘free at the point of use’.

In the interview, Mr Clegg said ‘defending the status quo’ is no longer an option. Instead, he called on his party to ‘let its hair down’, ‘break a long-standing taboo’ and be ‘reckless’ in its thinking.

‘We do want to break up the NHS,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to privatise it, we want to break it up. Should the debate be taboo? Of course not, absolutely not.’

A year earlier, Mr Clegg had contributed to the notorious Orange Book in which those on the right of the party discussed how policies should change under Mr Kennedy’s leadership. The conclusion of the book outlines in more detail the type of insurance scheme he was outlining.

‘The NHS is failing to deliver a health service that meets the needs and expectations of today’s population,’ it said.

John Lister, of the lobby group Health Emergency, said: ‘These comments show Mr Clegg does not understand the NHS. He seems to be ignorant of the fact that social insurance schemes in Europe are far more expensive.’

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘The NHS is one of Britain’s most loved institutions. People will be worried that Nick Clegg wants to “break it up”.’ [!!! That’s Andrew Lansley pretending that the NHS is safe in Tory hands before the election !!!]

 

How the Orange Bookers took over the Lib Dems


What Britain now has is a blue-orange coalition, with the little-known Orange 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.

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