No time to waste – six months to save our NHS

If the NHS continues down the road of privatisation, it will cease to exist as we know it.

If the NHS continues down the road of privatisation, it will cease to exist as we know it

Today is an opportunity for all of us to fight for one of Britain’s greatest achievements – our National Health Service.

Loved by most and used by the overwhelming majority of the public, our NHS is now under threat and we must fight to protect it.

When the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was passed, our NHS was put up for sale and has been subjected to creeping privatisation ever since.

Labour MP Clive Efford has put forward a Private Members Bill to Parliament which aims to reduce procurement and tendering procedures that provide a gateway to the private corporations to buy into our NHS and also sees millions of pounds wasted on competition lawyers.

Receiving its second reading in Parliament next week on 21 November, the #BackTheBill campaign will take its message to the streets today.

Backed by the TUC and several affiliated trade unions, campaigners will be telling the public tomorrow to put pressure on their MPs to vote for the bill.

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) members believe that although the Efford Bill is not completely satisfactory in its present form in meeting all of KONP’s demands for the NHS, it is worth campaigning for because it raises the public’s awareness of NHS privatisation.

One of KONP’s founders, Professor Allyson Pollock, and colleagues Peter Roderick and David Price have produced a ‘NHS Reinstatement Bill’ which details the legal steps required to fully restore the NHS in England and reverse the failings of the H&SC Act.

KONP along with other NHS campaigning groups fully support Professor Pollock’s Bill.

Professor Pollock has voiced concerns that Efford’s Bill needs to go further and still requires some clarification in parts.

However, crucially she states the Efford Bill is a ‘step in the right direction’.

This bill is keeping the NHS at the top of the political agenda and the vote next Friday will force MPs from all parties to acknowledge that the people demand an end to any privatisation of our NHS and that we want it fully restored to public ownership.

KONP have been working hard since its founding in 2005 to protect the NHS from privatisation, but the next six months run up to the general election will be a crucial time.

We must utilise all campaigning opportunities to inform people about the very real threat our NHS is under, but above all we must be united in our common cause. Next Thursday there will be an all night vigil on Parliament Square in support of the Bill, and activities on the Friday whilst the Bill is being debated in Parliament.

Aneurin Bevan, minister for health when the NHS was founded in 1945, once said the NHS ‘will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it’.

If the NHS continues down the road of privatisation, it will cease to exist as we know it.

Putting profit before people compromises the quality of our health care and is the wrong ethos to have at the heart of our nation’s health system.  The people demand a publicly funded, publicly provided, publicly accountable and comprehensive  NHS.

Sakina Sheikh is an administrative and fundraising assistant at KONP. She writes in a personal capacity

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23 Responses to “No time to waste – six months to save our NHS”

  1. CGR

    … And then Labour can sell off more hospitals in bad PFI deals!

    Just like they did last time.

    You cannot trust Westminster elite politicians with our NHS

  2. AlanGiles

    It doesn’t help Labour’s case that Andy Burnham presided over NHS Global and defended privatisation. He probably wouldn’t today, but I wouldn’t like to say he might change his mind again if Labour come to power next year

  3. madasafish

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, today urged the government to withdraw plans to increase NHS spending in real terms year on year, saying that otherwise the commitment would visit real damage on other services, such as social care

    During the last general election Labour said it would increase spending on front-line services in the NHS only in line with inflation. In addition, the Labour government proposed finding £15bn-£20bn in efficiency savings to try to relieve the extra pressure on the NHS

    June 2010.

  4. Bill Ellson

    “Aneurin Bevan, minister for health when the NHS was founded in 1945,
    once said the NHS ‘will last as long as there are folk left with the
    faith to fight for it’.”

    No, Bevan did not say that. Nye Bevan died in 1960, ‘quote’ first appeared in 2007.

  5. marje arnold

    our NHS has neber been in such bad state as it is now. it was founded after the war when this country was on its knees. now we cant even give the necessary funds needed to keep it afloat because it is all being outsourced to private companies who are making a fortune out of it and all the torie [politicians have shares in these companies. but hey we have to increase overseas aid.

  6. treborc1

    Yes it has it was falling to pieces under Thatcher for god sake the NHS is nowhere near that state now, not even in Wales, sadly labour saved our NHS with a view to flogging it off to the yanks, so no change then. I do think the public are sick of it but of course they maybe sick as hell of the political games of all parties , but the fact is once it’s gone it’s gone for ever

  7. Cole

    Actually, it’s the Tories who are selling it off, to the delight of their donors.. Yes, Labour foolishly did a bit of it, but it has been massively speeded up by the Tory Health and Social Care Bill. And of course Ukip want to get rid of it altogether and introduce an insurance system, (though they’re now denying it having realised it’s massively unpopular).

  8. Cole

    Labour’s record is far from perfect, but they’d definitely protect the NHS better than the Tory, LibDem or Ukip alternatives. Without a shred of doubt.

  9. AlanGiles

    The problem is, just like when Hain closed the first tranche of Remploy factories and Purnell implemented Freud in full, Labour set a precedent. Once you start a process it is easier for somebody else to come along and continue it, as we saw with Duncan-Smith and Lansley and Hunt.

    Labour cannot pretend it wasn’t complicit, and that it is highly unlikely they would reverse the bad decisions Blair/Brown Labour and the Coalition have made. The current Labour front bench are so spineless I have no confidence in them.

  10. Ian Brannan

    This cannot possibly be true the Unionist parties Labour/Liberals/Tories have spent the last 3 years tellings Scots that there was unequivocally NO threat to the NHS in Scotland or the wider UK. Indeed here is Labour MSP Neil Findlay stating that the idea the Tories are a threat to the NHS is a “scandalous deceit”. –

    Here is the same Labour MSP stating that the Tories are NOT cutting the NHS funding in England –

    Here is another Labour MSP Malcolm Chisolm claiming that the idea that the Tories pose a threat to the NHS is the “biggest lie” of the referendum campaign –

    You would be fools to believe a word that Labour say on the NHS, they blatantly lied to the Scottish electorate to get them to vote no.

  11. Cole

    Most of us have concerns, but at least Labour have committed to repeal the vastly damaging Health and Social Care Bill. If the Tories win in May, the NHS will barely exist by 2020, whatever they say say in the run-up to the election.

  12. Selohesra

    I thought Left were wheeling out that scare story before last election – were they just crying wolf that time but this time they mean it?

  13. Guest

    So you’d trust private companies.

  14. Guest

    So far less cutting, right. And?

  15. Guest

    Yea, how dare facts be true. Hmm.

  16. Guest

    You seem to have confused England and Scotland again.
    Indeed, the WAY the English NHS is being diced up *protects* the Scottish NHS’s funding.

  17. Teddy

    Thank goodness no one linked to this site or labour mps receive any donations from people connected to private health company’s.

  18. Selohesra

    Do you ever read a comment before replying Leon?

  19. Ian Brannan


    That quite simply is false, The Barnett formula, which has determined Scottish Government funding since devolution, works by taking the money spent in England on services and allocating an equivalent percentage (based on population and devolved service provision) to the Scottish Government. By its nature, the formula is therefore not linked to the actual money raised in Scotland, or even the affordability of services from our tax base – it merely gives a lump sum to Holyrood based on the previous year’s spending in England. And it’s this system that will eventually lead to the undermining of the Scottish Government’s finances.

    This is largely attributable to moves by successive Westminster governments since the advent of devolution to bring market-based economics into English public-service provision, through PPP, PFI and privatisation. As more and more infrastructure is built on PFI/PPP and services are either privatised or funded through direct billing of the public in England, then less public money from government is spent on services.

    This leads to an equivalent drop in the funding due to the Scottish Government under the Barnett Formula. This is despite the fact that the services in England are not losing overall funding, as this is being recouped through direct charging (such as in the case of tuition fees) or by having the service being provided completely independently of government by the private sector for profit.

    Even if the people of England wound up paying substantially more for the same services, or the Scottish tax base took a rapid growth spurt upwards, it wouldn’t matter. The funding for Scotland is based on the money that Westminster and local government spends in England, and only the money they spend.

    As privatisation advances and fees for previously free-at-the-point-of-need services become more commonplace, the Scottish block grant will be cut accordingly, removing the funding needed to support our public services and forcing the abolition of universal benefits, regardless of what the people of Scotland want or do.

    As Nicola Sturgeon put it, “It’s a conclusion that has its roots in the deeply misguided belief… that this Parliament should be responsible for divvying up the national cake but have no power to influence the overall size of that cake.”

    In other words, as the neoliberal free-market ideological consensus tightens its grip on the throat of England, so Scotland too will choke.

    That is before we even consider the Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the EU and the US.

    TTIP is the result of long-running negotiations between the EU and the US over trade liberalisation. One of its fundamental principles is that services, including state services, should be open to private competition from American multinationals.

    Health services in Europe will therefore be opened to private competition, but only where privatisation is already established within a member state. In other words, where there is an existing state monopoly, TTIP won’t apply – foreign companies will NOT be able to sue the government in question for unfair competition.

    Historically, NHS services (being state-funded) have been classed as a social rather than an economic activity. As a publicly-funded, publicly-provided service offering universal access to healthcare on the basis of need and not the ability to pay, it was not possible to consider the NHS as commercial in nature. But the 2012 UK Health and Social Care Act has changed that by opening up the ENTIRE (including Scotland’s) UK system to TTIP.

    This is because it explicitly introduces a private market in health provision in England. As such there no longer exists a state monopoly on health provision, as the largest part of that state allows commercial interests to compete in an open market.

    After the No vote, private providers and insurance companies are almost certain to argue that – since Scotland is not a sovereign state but merely a region of the UK – it cannot be exempted from competition for health provision, regardless of the UK’s internal devolutionary arrangements. Only if Scotland were an independent member state can it show that NHS Scotland remains a state-run monopoly and exempt from TTIPl.

    None of this is news to Labour. Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, insists the coalition health reforms make it “compulsory” for all NHS contracts awards to be opened up to competition (allowing private firms to pick off the most lucrative contracts), and has explicitly said that TTIP threatens the NHS’s existence as a publicly run, free-at-the-point-of-use NHS.

    “If this goes through it will mean that any Clinical Commissioning Group anywhere in England could be [sued] by a US private healthcare company.

    “It’s a question of control – the NHS used to be able to plan these things. If it wanted to run a particular service then it could… plan which contracts would go out and which wouldn’t – it doesn’t hold the cards any more.

    “There’s no doubt the Health and Social Care Act opens up the NHS to full competition – that was always the hidden agenda in my view and [TTIP] puts the rocket boosters on it.

    “If it goes through the genie would be out of the bottle and it would be irreversible. The stakes couldn’t be higher.” see here –

    Mr Burnham also said he has seen no signs that the coalition has even tried to make a case to the EU for NHS exemption. This is important as TTIP negotiators are using a ‘negative list’ approach to determining which sectors are to be included in the treaty. This means that a member state must explicitly list the services they want excluded from the deal, before the deal is signed. Any services not listed will automatically be included for “liberalisation”.

    David Cameron recently answered a question in the House of Commons on whether the NHS would be excluded from TTIP by saying:

    “[I’m] not aware of a specific exemption for any particular area, but I think that the health service would be treated in the same way in relation to EU-US negotiations as it is in relation to EU rules” (Col. 919)

    Linda Kaucher, a leading expert on trade agreements has said of the TTIP deal that:

    “[It will] permanently fix corporate-driven neo-liberalism, within the EU and internationally, via trade agreements. Any reassertion of democracy within the EU structure or member states is prevented by legally binding international trade law.”

    “[It is] driven and effectively controlled by transnational corporations, especially transnational financial services corporations.”

    “[The Health and Social Care Act] effectively enforces competitive tendering, and thus privatisation and liberalisation i.e. opening to transnational bidders – a shift to US-style profit-prioritised health provision.”

    “Even if outcomes of the NHS changes are disastrous, ISDS [Investor State Dispute Settlement] will effectively disallow any attempts by any future UK government to reverse the changes.”

    Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) laws – the fundamental elements of the agreement – allow corporations legal protection for their profits regardless of patient care performance, with the power to sue any public sector organisation or government that threatens their interests.

    Once these ISDS tools are in place, lucrative contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the Scottish Government wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue the Scottish Government for future loss of earnings, resulting in further costs to the taxpayer for legal and administrative costs.

    ISDS also gives multinational corporations advantage over local providers because it gives overseas investors the exclusive right to commercial arbitration as a means of influence. Trade union Unite have said that TTIP will make privatisation irreversible as:

    “US health companies will even have the right to sue a future UK government in secret courts if politicians try to reverse privatisation.”

    Patients for NHS, an England based pro-NHS lobby group, said:

    “The treaty will change the whole emphasis of NHS health care: the priority will become the rights of transnational organisations rather than the care of patients.”

    For Scotland this is the worst of both possible worlds. Even if the Scottish Government is somehow able to stave off attacks on the NHS by private healthcare providers in the courts, it will still nonetheless end up unable to fund it. The whole point of the TTIP system is to force the NHS in England into an American-style insurance-based system that would see Barnett funding slashed as government spending was replaced with private.

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  21. rayvison

    Yes, PFI – is it corruption, malevolence, stupidity or madness? Could never work it out.

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  23. Joe Public

    Yes, it was highlighted that efford’s Bill wasnt just a set of oversights but a deliberate attempt on part of the privatising lobby within “new labour” ranks to confuse. And NO, it is NOT a “step in the right direction” at all! The Pollock/Roderick Bill is far more in the direction we need to go with this entire shebang, however that too contains some extremely serious and worrying flawes, which I am advised may have been created by the Labour pro-priv block within the opposition movement (they’re bloody desperate!). A book got published 2 years ago which covers up a load of Labour damage. Blue, Red (purple) or amber (or purple/yellow for that matter) – if you vote for either on 1/5/15, you’ll be voting for your NHS to be further marketised! The Green’s Health policies dont seem too bad at all far as I have seen thus far. I cant vote NHA ( due to no candidate standing within my consituency, unless I move! No, read the small print! Read Simon Steven’s ‘5 Year Forward View’ on NHS Eng w/site. It aint too funny! Think things are bad? They’re worse! Biggest roadblock: Mainstream media hush. Rarely hear the ‘P’ word uttered! And now, they’ve created a two-horse race – both from the same stable (the stable of instability). Max Kaiser ran a good piece 2 or so years back on UK NHS market being the “next Industrial Rev”. Shant post a link, you’ll find it.

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