Colin Leys looks at how Scotland and Wales have rejected marketising the NHS
As expert commentators have amply shown, the coalition’s plan to privatise the NHS lacks any basis in evidence – no surprise there. What is less well recognised, and so far amazingly unmentioned in the debate, is that powerful evidence against privatisation exists on our own doorstep – namely, the fact that in Scotland and Wales the NHS is working well as a publicly provided and managed system, based on planning and democratic accountability.
Marketisation was tried, especially in Scotland, and rejected. The purchaser-provider split, which is at the root of the marketisation project, was introduced but then abandoned in both nations, and neither foundation trusts nor payment by results were introduced in either of them. PFI was used in Scotland under the first Labour government in Holyrood, and one private treatment centre for NHS patients was opened, but the SNP has since scrapped the use of PFI and taken the treatment centre into public ownership. Wales has used neither PFI nor private treatment centres. The NHS in both countries is once again planned and managed through a mix of democratically accountable central and local structures, as it was in England before the 1990s.
We have an excerpt of The Plot Against the NHS reviewing Scotland and Wales’ approaches.