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Education :: Medway
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Last week's centre pages of the Socialist were an excellent explanation of the terrible damage wreaked upon our National Health Service by all three main parties and especially by the current Coalition's Health and Social Care Act.
At our January meeting of Greater Manchester Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), we debated which (if any) party would be in line with KONP's policies for a publicly owned, democratically run and fully funded NHS.
Several supported TUSC. Some suggested the National Health Action Party, among others. No one suggested New Labour, and with good reason.
New Labour is posing as a defender of the NHS. Both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Labour health spokesperson Andy Burnham have said they will repeal the Con-Dems' Health and Social Care Act, and restore the duty of the secretary of state to 'provide' rather than simply 'promote' healthcare.
Remember that New Labour is the party that mastered spin! Labour's promises do not mean what some may expect, and what is needed - the reversal of what the Tories have done to our NHS!
Burnham promised in 2012 that the NHS under a future Labour government would be predominantly public, and that the role currently played by Clinical Commissioning Groups in 'commissioning' (buying) services would be handed over to local authorities instead.
Miliband, however, has made it quite clear that New Labour is not planning to go even that far. In 2012, Miliband promised Labour would lower the proportion of private sector work that hospitals can carry out, tweak the role of Monitor (the supposed regulatory body), and prevent GPs from commissioning services from themselves.
In 2013, the only definite pledge he made when writing in the Mirror was to repeal the Act and restore the duty of 'provision'.
It's not hard to see how this will play out if New Labour wins the general election. The Act will be repealed, but all the consequences - a denationalised, largely privatised, health service, broken into competing and chaotic fragments - will remain. Services already cut during this process will not be restored.
The health minister's powers of 'provision' will amount to an energy minister's powers over the rip-off private energy companies - futile appeals for companies to behave better, handwringing and empty gestures.
It's not hard to imagine Labour's excuse for not going further: existing pro-privatisation legislation in the EU for example.
New Labour promised to renationalise the railways before the 1997 general election, then didn't during 13 years of government. Part of the fight to defend and rebuild our NHS is to unmask Labour's spin.
Following the departure of the CEO and chairwoman, Monitor have forced the appointment of two replacements at Medway Maritime Hospital.
The new bosses are Nigel Beverly, who ushered in the wholesale privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, and Christopher Langley, former CEO of the camera shop Jessop's which went into administration, sacking thousands of workers last year.
With the hospital already under special measures, services are struggling to cope. The threat of privatisation of essential services like housekeeping and portering has loomed for years, but has always been scuppered by union opposition.
These appointments are a clear signal of intent from the board and Monitor: running down and privatising services when we need more staff, more beds and more time set aside for training.
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Article dated 12 February 2014
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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