Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The NHS is not safe in their hands

After a quarter of a million people signed petitions against the secretive Tory SI 257 NHS "back-door privatisation" amendment and thousands more wrote to their MPs, the Lib-Dem health minister Norman Lamb stated that they would rewrite the legislation to "to remove any doubt".

Labour gleefully called it an "embarrassing U-turn", and paraded around as if it were their own victory, rather than a victory for the quarter of a million members of the public that signed the petition (despite a mainstream media blackout on the whole subject).

Yes, the New Labour hierarchy  eventually decided to oppose the SI257 amendment this amendment and many of them signed Early Day Motion 1104 to scrap it, but this was transparently motivated by political expediency rather than any real desire to protect the NHS. It must always be remembered that Labour, and especially former Health Minister Alan Milburn (who now works in the private health sector) were the ones that really kicked the NHS privatisation door open in the first place.

It would have been easy to see the Coalition statement of their intent to rewrite the amendment as a huge victory for people power over corrupt politicians, however the battle was actually lost...

Remember the Tory sham "listening exercise”? Where the public and medical profession almost uniformly criticised their NHS reform proposals, but the Tory party ignored it all in favour of advice from private health lobbyists. After they supposedly "listened", they steamrollered on with their hugely controversial top down reorganisation of the NHS regardless of the cacophony of criticism. Despite continued criticisms and votes of no confidence from across the medical profession, they eventually pushed it through parliament with Lib-Dem support, using the endlessly repeated narrative that the reforms were not intended as a privatisation of the NHS at all.

Once the fuss over SI257 died down they simply pushed their secretive keystone privatisation amendment through virtually unchanged, meaning that virtually all NHS services must be put out to competitive tender, and that NHS commissioners must accept the lowest bid, irrespective of other continuations such as patient safety, quality of service or long-term continuity of provision.

The Tories got well and truly caught out privatising the NHS, but expecting them to suddenly decide to safeguard the NHS after getting caught out like this would be as insanely optimistic as expecting the Liberal-Democrats to protect the NHS from Tory ideological malice. They simply submitted a slightly revised amendment which still carves up the NHS for private sector interests to cherry-pick at will.

The NHS is not safe in their hands, and it never will be.

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