Archive for the ‘Hospitals’ Category

Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Retain All Labour’s Manifesto Policies

February 18, 2020

Here’s some really good news from today’s I for Tuesday, 18th February 2020. According to the article, ‘Long-Bailey sticks to manifesto’ by Richard Vaughan, the Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has promised to retain all of Labour’s manifesto promises. The article runs

The Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey said she would not drop a single policy from the party’s general election manifesto, but admitted it “confused” voters. 

The shadow Business Secretary said there were policies in Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto that were “undeliverable in five years”, but were long-term aims. Ms Long-Bailey highlighted promises, such as the four-day week, which the party “would never have achieved in five years”.

“It was a long-term aspiration,” she said, “But putting it in a manifesto a packaging it in a way that we could deliver it under a next Labour government confused people.”

Ms Long-Bailey made the comments during a live Channel 4 debate in Dudley.

This is optimistic, as those manifesto policies, with the possible exception of G4 broadband coverage or whatever it was, are exactly what this country needs. They were actually very well received by the public despite the Tories’ and their media lackeys’ successful vilification of Corbyn. Their success is also shown by the fact that Boris has been forced to copy them. He had to announce he was pouring more money into the NHS, and build 40 more hospitals, as well as engage on a massive renovation of the public infrastructure, particularly the railways. Of course, he’s not going to do any of that. He’ll continue to cut funding to the NHS ready for privisation, and those hospitals aren’t going to be built. As for the money he’s going to spend on the railways, they are far below the vast sums required. He’s likely to go ahead with HS2, but that’ll be it.

And Boris has also had to renationalise Northern Rail, which clearly shows that rail privatisation hasn’t and isn’t working. Although I accept that some of the problems weren’t the fault of the rail operators, but the government’s and that of the state-owned company holding their railways lines, Railtrack.

The fact that BoJob has had to make these promises means that Labour can hold him to them. It means there’s pressure on the Tories to move in a left-ward direction, especially if they wish to retain and reward the former Labour voters in the north and midlands. It means that hopefully politics may no longer be a race for privatisation and welfare cuts between the Tories and the Labour party, as it was under Blair.

She’s also right in that there was a problem with communication. I was at a local Labour party meeting a few weeks ago, and the consensus there was that Labour left the public confused. There was too much for people to take in, and policies seemed to be announced by the day. It was also considered that Boris won by stressing an optimistic message looking forward, while Labour concentrated too much on the achievements of the past.

It’s a good point, but as a Labour supporter I was really enthusiastic about the election broadcast and its hark back to that awesome government of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan. But I agree with them and Long-Bailey that Labour must communicate its excellent policies better, and look forward. We have to stress that under the Labour Party, the future will be better, and we will have better services, better healthcare and better welfare support, and the country will be altogether more prosperous, than it will under the Tories, Because all they off is broken promises and illusions based on fading memories of imperial greatness.

I take Long-Bailey’s point that many of the policies in the manifesto will probably take more than a single term to implement. But they have to be long-term aims. And in the meantime Labour should concentrate on absolutely defending the NHS and seek to restore and expand the welfare state as well as employment rights and trade unions.

Because the NHS and welfare benefits are matters of life and death.

This announcement by Long-Bailey suggests she means to keep those promises, and is the woman to lead Labour to victory in the next election.

Dawn Butler Defends Labour Manifesto, Says Tories Stole Labour Policies

February 11, 2020

Last Saturday’s I for 8th February 2020 carried a piece about Dawn Butler by the paper’s political editor, Hugo Gye, ‘Butler: as deputy leader, I’d be like John Prescott without the violence.’ This consisted largely of an interview with Butler followed by how well the various deputy leadership contenders were faring. Butler argued that she should be leader as she was ‘the experience candidate’, having served under two Labour Prime Ministers. She also claimed that she could unite all sections of the party, and was therefore the unity candidate. She also stated that as deputy leader she’d be like John Prescott without the violence, because she doesn’t intend to punch anyone. As for her chances of winning – the favourite is Angela Rayner – she said that throughout her life as a Black female she’d always had someone telling her she had no chance.

But this isn’t what I found interesting. That was what she said about the positive reception she’d experienced of Labour’s manifesto, and that the Tories had stolen Labour’s policies. Gye wrote

I’ve put up several pieces about Butler, criticising her demand for all-Black shortlists and her statement that she intends to fight misogyny. The all-Black shortlists could make racism even worse, as some Whites in majority ethnic neighbourhoods with a Black MP may feel excluded. Her statement about misogyny is questionable because of the way what is considered misogynist has been expanded to include not just definite cases of sexism, but more dubious areas like microaggression. These are supposed to be the tiny, everyday pieces of sexism that affect women’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. Like calling them ‘Love’. At the same time, Private Eye has claimed that, rather than not having been a member of any coup against Corbyn, as she claims, Butler was very definitely one of the participants. This casts doubt on her position as a left-wing candidate.

But I think she is almost certainly right about the positive response of the public to Labour’s policies. In polls Corbyn’s policies of renationalisation and the restoration of workers’ rights and the welfare state were well-received. It’s why the Tory media had to resort to portraying him as an anti-Semite and communist or Trotskyite. And the Tories have been forced to appear to steal Labour’s policies. After Labour announced its policies on the NHS, the Tories announced they were going to invest a record amount in the health service and built more than 40 new hospitals. This is all lies, but it shows how they have been forced publicly to move away from their real policies of starving the NHS of funding and closing hospitals. Just as they have been forced to renationalise Northern Rail, although some of that was an attempt to divert attention away from the problems caused by government failures in the construction and maintenance of the tracks and infrastructure, on which the trains run, which is still government-owned. Just as the Tories have also promised – again, it’s just lies – a massive campaign of house construction as well as the expansion of the rail network.

I feel that even though Labour will be out of power for the next five years, it can still do much good by maintaining those left-wing policies and trying to force the Tories to move left, so that when the Tories – and they will – their right-wing policies will be soundly contrasted with Labour’s socialist programme that will be far more successful. If this is done properly, it will show to the public that socialism hasn’t been superceded by Thatcherism. Quite the opposite – it is Thatcherism that is now obsolete.

My fear, however, is that if Starmer and Rayner get into power, they will turn the clock back to Blair, and Britain will be further decimated, economically and socially, by the Thatcherite policies of privatisation of industry, schools and the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state.

Failure of Hague’s and Jolie’s Scheme to Combat Use of Rape in War

January 13, 2020

It’s not just the people of Britain that the Tories are failing. Last Friday’s I carried a piece by Hugo Gye, ‘Hague and Jolie’s sexual violence scheme ‘let down survivors’, about the failure of an international initiative by Willliam Hague and Angelina Jolie to raise awareness of and fight the use of rape as a weapon of war. This was well-funded right up to the moment Hague stopped being responsible for it. As soon as that happened, its budget was drastically cut, and the scheme may have ended up doing more harm than good. The article ran

A UK Government effort to curb the use of rape as a weapon of war did not succeed and may even have harmed victims, a report suggests.

The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) was launched in 2012 by the then foreign secretary, William Hague, and the actress Angelina Jolie in her role as a United Nations special envoy.

Its aim was to “raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys in situations of armed conflict and rally global actions to end it”. But as soon as the Conservative politician left office a few months later, work on the scheme was drastically scaled back.

A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact says that withdrawing support for victims of violence may have left them worse off than if it had never been offered. The PSVI’s budget fell from £15m to just £2m with only four full-time civil servants working on it.

The aid watchdog concluded that the project had helped to make Britain a “leading voice in the international effort to address conflict-related sexual violence” but fell short of the ambitions originally set for it.

It said: “The initiative lacks a clear strategy and overall vision to guide its activities, and the lack of a shared understanding of the problem has inhibited cross-departmental collaboration on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

“There is little monitoring and reporting on how outputs translate into lasting outcomes, making it difficult to access [its] effectiveness.”

Last night, the Foreign Office said that the report failed to “fully recognise the impact of the UK’s leadership on PSVI, which has mobilised the international community and brought real change for survivors.”

I’d like to believe that Hague was sincere about this scheme when he set it up, but it does look very much like a typical Tory plan: inaugurated with great hoo-hah and fanfare, but lacking substance and immediately cut the moment it loses the public’s attention. Like Boris Johnson’s plan to build forty more hospitals, most of whom have no more than seed funding to sort out legal problems.

And I’m not sure how successful a scheme to suppress sexual violence in war is going to be when some of the worst offenders are the Tories’ Fascist friends. Rape was used by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet to torture his regime’s political prisoners. The building used for it within the concentration camp in which they were interned was nicknamed ‘the discotheque’ because of the thugs’ use of disco music when they raped their victims.

No matter how well Hague or Jolie meant, that policy was definitely going to be scrapped if it got in the way of good relations with their real Fascist mates.

Right, Guido Fawkes?

Medic Attacks Tory Claims to Have Built 18 New Hospitals as Misleading

January 12, 2020

This weekend’s edition of the I carried a report that a leading medic, Dr Susan Crossland, had said that the Tories were misleading the public by claiming that they had built 18 new hospitals. The report by Paul Gallagher, ‘Tory claim to have built 18 new hospitals ‘misleading” ran

A leading medic has accused the Government of misleading the public after it claimed 18 new hospitals had opened in the past 10 years.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) made the claim in documents released under an I Freedom of Information request, but the figure includes existing hospitals either refurbished or redeveloped.

At least 11 of the projects are redevelopments, refurbishments or changes to existing hospital sites, such as integration or relocation.

Dr Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said “The conflation between new hospitals and refurbishment of existing hospitals is misleading to the public.

“Whilst investment in the crumbling infrastructure of the NHS property portfolio is welcome, at the time we are seeing unprecedented demand on hospital beds we call into question whether this will ease the current pressures we see. And we call on the Government to be honest and account to the tax-paying public. Are there going to be any more beds in the system, or are we going to continue to see further reductions?”

Pressed on how many of the 18 projects could be described as “whole new hospitals” the DHSC did not respond.

NHS staff union Unison said the lack of “whole new builds” was “shocking”. It said “at least half” of the projects are a legacy of the previous Labour government, so there has been “next to nothing” under the Tories.

The revelation calls into question the Government’s ability to honour its manifesto pledge to build 40 hospitals in the next 10 years. The Tory manifesto promised the NHS “its biggest ever cash boost, with 20 hospital upgrades and 40 new hospitals.”

According to FullFact.org the Government has committed the money to upgrade six hospitals by 2025. Up to 38 other hospitals have received money to plan for building work between 2025 and 2030, but not to actually begin any work.

Mr Johnson has been criticised for refusing to say how much the promised new hospitals will cost, where they would be, or where the money involved would come from. The only detail given in the six NHS trusts that would receive £2.7bn to rebuild existing acute hospitals in England by 2025, and £100m “seed money” to 21 other English trusts to work up plans for similar projects. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that if most were new hospitals in city centres containing state-of-the-art equipment, the cost might be between £12bn and £24bn.

A DHSC spokesman said: “We’ve launched the largest hospital building programme in a generation which will deliver at least 40 new hospitals over the next decade.”

So the Tories have been caught lying again. They  haven’t built 18 new hospitals. If 11 of those they cite are just refurbishments, it means at most they’ve built just 7. And it seems most of those 18 hospitals were built by the Labour government. And the claim that they’re going to build 40 new hospitals over the next ten years is just specious promises.

The reality is that they’re going to run down the NHS while making token gestures towards building and renovation to disguise what they’re doing, read for privatisation.

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

January 2, 2020

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Tories Going Ahead with NHS Privatisation

December 31, 2019

Here’s another broken promise from Bozo the Clown Prime Minister – but it’s one everyone on the left knew very well was going to happen. Johnson’s going full ahead with the Tory privatisation of the NHS, despite Tory claims that we still have a publicly-owned healthcare system that’s supposed to provide care free at the point of use.

Mike reported a few days ago that Johnson’s government has drawn up a new framework for the NHS, the NHS Shared Business Services in which hospital trusts will buy services from a list of private companies. The services put out for tender include cardiology, gynaecology, paediatrics and oncology. That means it also covers children’s medicine and cancer care. The report Mike cites, at MirrorOnline, says it could mean services worth £117 million being contracted out over four years.

As Mike points out, we don’t have a system of universal healthcare anymore, as the private firms that supply the NHS with some services don’t cover the whole country. He also states clearly that it isn’t free at the point of use, as Tory policy is intended to make patients, who aren’t able to get proper NHS funded care are supposed to go private. Meanwhile, other NHS services are being starved of cash for the government to fund the private healthcare companies they’ve allowed into the NHS.

See:  https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/29/when-is-a-public-health-service-not-a-public-health-service-when-its-run-by-tories/

The Tory claim that this is private expertise making the NHS more efficient is a lie. Private healthcare is actually less efficient. It does not adequately cover – if at all – the poor and those with long-term health problems. Private hospitals are typically smaller than NHS hospitals. They’re also far more bureaucratic. About 10 per cent of private healthcare costs are management, though this can rise to 40 per cent. In America, something like 20 per cent of the American public can no longer afford their private health insurance. 40,000 people die every year because they can’t afford medical care. In Virginia, people actually sleep out in their cars for the weekend when the dentists offer their services free.

This is what will come to Britain if the Tories and Johnson have their way and run down the NHS completely. They do want it to become a second class service for the poor, who cannot afford private medicine. Or else introduce the American system, where everyone is supposed to go private, but there is medicare and medicaid to provide some limited care for the poor and elderly. Or else people can seek treatment at the local hospital’s Emergency Room.

Don’t believe the Tories’ lies – they are privatising the NHS purely for corporate profit. And Britain’s people will suffer.

Private Medicine and the Demand for the Privatisation of State Medical Care

December 17, 2019

The book Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure also makes it clear where the demands for NHS and the privatisation of other systems of state healthcare come from: the private medical sector, including the insurance industry. The book states

Arguments for private markets in health care are not only persistent, and resistant to both analysis and evidence, but they also come forward from the same groups of people. Again over the decades, and across countries, one finds the same arguments for private organization and funding coming from spokesmen for private practitioners’ associations – physicians, dentists, pharmacists – as well as from private insurance companies and drug manufacturers. In addition they tend to come, as noted above, from representatives of ‘business’ and, more recently, from ‘ideological entrepreneurs’ that support themselves and their organisations by championing the interests of the wealthy, cheerleading for the private marketplace. Indeed, they are simply taking advantage of the general ideological climate, currently more favourable to re-open old issues. (p. 28).

‘Ideological entrepreneurs’ seems to be another term for right-wing thinktanks and astroturf pressure groups.

The book states that in contrast with hospital workers, who want to see cheap or free medical treatment provided to the poorest, the private sector is interested in maximising its income.

Hospital workers, whose patients/clients tend to be very ill and/or have very limited resources – the unhealthy and unwealthy – are generally very supportive of public payment systems. Their opportunities in a private marketplace would be quite limited. But they do not support hospital ‘downsizing’ or containment more generally; the ideal policy would be more money from public sources, to hire more highly trained and better paid staff….

The loud voices for privatisation, by contrast, come from those who believe that they could do better, in the form of increased sales of or higher prices for their products and services, in a more entrepreneurial environment. It is not clear how many, if any, of these would support a truly private system, with no direct or indirect contribution of public funds. The economic mayhem among providers would be truly awesome. Instead what seems to be contemplated is a continuation of public support on a large scale, but without limits on private fee setting or delivery, or private insurance – rather like the United States, in fact, before more widespread ‘managed care’. 

This sounds very much like the thinking behind the privatisation of NHS services – private healthcare providers supported by the state – and Trump’s intention to open up the NHS to American private healthcare firms and remove the NHS’ price fixing mechanism keeping drug prices as low as possible.

NHS privatisation is all about private profit, not public care or the provision of health services at minimal cost. Don’t fall for the rhetoric of the Tories or Blairites in Labour. Get rid of it, and them.

NAFTA, and Boris Johnson’s Trade Agreement with Trump Are Threats to State Healthcare

December 16, 2019

One of the chapters in the book Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure, edited by Daniel Drache and Terry Sullivan, is by Barry Appleton, ‘International agreements and National health Plans: NAFTA’. NAFTA  is the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade zone that was set up in the 1990s which included America, Mexico and Canada. Appleton states that it is too early to fully appreciate the impact of the agreement, but states that ‘The NAFTA affects health care in two ways. first, acts as a general limitation on the ways that governments can deal with public policy. Second, the agreement acts to lock in market liberalisation in the health sector’. (p. 87). 

The treaty includes clauses like the following that prevent governments from nationalising the property of other nations:

No Party may directly or indirectly nationalize or expropriate an investment of an investor of another Party in its territory or take a measure tantamount to nationalization or expropriation of such an investment (‘expropriation’), except:

(a) for a public purpose;

(b) on a non-discriminatory basis;

(c) in accordance with due process of law and Article 1105 (1); and

(d) on payment of compensation in accordance with paragraphs 2 through 6. 

Now the renationalisation of hospitals and doctors’ surgeries taken over by the Americans would, I believe, come under ‘public purpose’, and so be permitted, but there would be objections to this. I remember at the time when the Americans were setting the system up there was real concern amongst the left that if the Americans were allowed to buy up British industries, including parts of the NHS under a NAFTA-trade deal, we would find it impossible to renationalise them.

This should still be a major concern with Boris Johnson’s negotiations with Trump, in which, despite Boris’ denials, the NHS is very much on the table. In fact Johnson, Liam Fox and Daniel Hannam set up the Institute for Free Trade in 2017 in order to push for a deal with the Americans, in which private American companies would be allowed to run British hospitals.

If this goes through, we may find it impossible under international law to get them, and other important businesses, back.

Don’t let Boris privatise the NHS.

 

Nationalised, State Healthcare Gives the Poor More Money and More Power

December 16, 2019

One of the arguments Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have been pushing to attack state healthcare is that, as it’s funded through public taxes, it somehow leaves people worse off. I came across a recent right-wing video on YouTube that seemed to be pushing that line. It proclaimed that American university students were all in favour of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All – until they were told what it would cost them. I didn’t watch it, because I knew it would annoy me. Similarly, over here the Tories and Blairites have been telling people that the inclusion of the private sector will bring costs down, thus allowing government to make savings and cut taxes. In fact, private healthcare is wastefully bureaucratic, far more so than state healthcare. But the Tories just want to cut taxes for the rich without making the lives of the poor any better. Indeed, they are determined to make them worse through savage welfare cuts, wage freezes, and further attacks on workers’ rights and employment conditions. And by encouraging more people to take out private health insurance in order to avoid their manufactured problems in state healthcare, the costs are transferred to the consumer. For the rich this is no problem. For middle income groups, it means having to pay thousands for operations and procedures that should be routine and free. They are worse off.

The book Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure, Daniel Drache and Terry Sullivan, eds., (London: Routledge 1999) makes the point that Lord Beveridge, the architect of the modern welfare state, believed the contrary. State welfare provision which actually leave the poor and working people better off. Without doctors’ and hospital bills to pay for their illness, they would have more disposable income. The book states

It is not sufficiently recognised that by removing the financial burden of catastrophic illness from their wage packets, their disposable incomes would rise. No longer would they have to pay doctors from their pockets when their children were born or they fell sick and when they went to hospital; lack of money did not constitute a barrier to good care. These reforms, along with the spread of collective bargaining in advanced industrial economies, enabled people to enjoy the benefits of an expanded notion of social citizenship. Healthcare and full employment thus constituted a forward-looking framework for social health and not simply clinically provided health care. 

(p. 10).

Which means that the prosperity given to working people through free medical care, full employment and strong trade unions can act as proper citizens, able to make political and economic choices that will affect government.

Which is why the Tories and the Republicans in America have attacked trade unions and scrapped the idea of full employment, because they give working people too much power. And what’s the odds that similar thinking also isn’t one of the factors in their attacks on state healthcare. Oh, they do honestly believe that private enterprise is always better than state provision, but the threat of medical bills in a private healthcare system as well as general poverty is a good way of keeping the workforce cowed and fearful.

NHS privatisation will not make healthcare cheaper and more efficient. It will just make working people poorer and allow more bullying and exploitation from their employers.

The Election: It’s Due to Brexit and Smears, Not Rejection of Labour Policy

December 14, 2019

As I’m sure everyone following this blog knows, the Tories won Thursday’s election. I had a horrible feeling they would, because despite Labour’s excellent manifesto and the polls showing that support for the Labour party had risen so that they were close behind them, the Tories are masters of deception. They’ve had the mass media, almost without exception, lying to the electorate for the last ten years. And I was afraid people would believe Johnson’s lies when he said he was going to build 40 new hospitals, recruit more coppers and nurses. All demonstrable lies, but people believe them. Just as they believed the lies put out by Thatcher and Major when their reforms were causing mass unemployment, poverty and misery, and ruining the Health Service. But I was unprepared for the extent of the Tory victory. They now have a majority of 78 seats.

Like very many people, I felt extremely bitter and angry, and spent yesterday trying not to think about politics, though it was inevitable. And now I’m ready to start analysing and making sense of this mess.

Martin Odoni has already written a very good piece about it, which is well worth reading. He argues that the result had zip to do with the public rejecting Labour’s manifesto, and everything to do with Brexit. He writes

It is absolutely self-evident, and was even so as the results were unfolding, that the biggest factor in the outcome by a country mile was Brexit. At almost every turn where Labour’s support had slumped, a similar number of votes had been claimed by the Brexit Party, by the Tories, or by a combination of the two – the two parties that are most rigorously pursuing British departure from the European Union. Most of Labour’s lost support was in traditional working class territory in the north of England, the north of Wales, and the Midlands, and most particularly in areas where there was a high Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum.

Now, I have no doubt Corbyn was a factor in some voters’ rejection of Labour – no politician will be everybody’s cup of tea. And given how brutally and relentlessly he has been smeared by the media, including many supposedly ‘left-leaning’ periodicals, there can be no doubt that the wider public’s view of Corbyn has been unfairly coloured. But the general results do not offer any specific evidence of a rejection of Labour’s policy platform as a whole. The shift was very definitely Leavers, with their maddening tunnel-visioned obsession with Brexit, moving to parties boasting their determination to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Either way, a personal objection to Corbyn does not constitute an objection to his policies. When discussing the Labour Manifesto, people were usually very enthused – Labour’s polling numbers did improve substantially rather than deteriorate after it was launched – just as they had been in 2017. On that occasion, Labour scored forty per cent of the vote, and it seems unlikely that huge numbers have suddenly reversed that position.

Absolutely. When Labour were mooting their new policies – of renationalising the NHS, and taking water, electricity and the railways back into public ownership – the polls showed that the public largely supported them. Which is why the Tories and the mass media had to fall back to smearing Corbyn personally with the false accusations of anti-Semitism and that he was some kind of Communist, IRA-supporting threat. Also, analysis of the grassroots membership of UKIP also showed that they’re largely in favour of nationalising the public utilities. What they don’t like is the EU, immigration and the new morality – the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. UKIP always was much smaller than the impression given by the media, and collapsed when it spectacularly failed to win any seats at the last election. The reasonable, or at least, less bonkers section of its membership went over to Fuhrage’s Brexit party, which has now also collapsed.

I conclude from this that it’s not Labour’s manifesto that’s the problem, despite Piers Morgan and the rest of the media and Tory establishment, including the Labour right, all claiming that it’s ‘far left’. It isn’t, and never was. It’s properly centrist in the true Labour tradition of a mixed economy.

I also think it would be difficult for the Labour to win under the circumstances. The anti-Semitism smears began when the Jewish Ed Miliband was elected leader. He was far more moderate than Corbyn, but dared to utter a mild criticism of Israel and so was subjected to a storm of smears. And Maureen Lipman flounced out of the party for the first time. Corbyn was then subjected to further smears and abuse for his support of the Palestinians – which does not equal anti-Semitism nor even a hatred of Israel, except in the minds of the ultra-Zionist fanatics. This was pushed by the media and the Conservative Jewish establishment, as well as the Labour right. They also misrepresented his work helping to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland as support for terrorism and the IRA. Oh yes, and he’s also supposed to be a supporter of Islamist terrorism. There’s also a nasty touch of racism in some of the other reasons I’ve heard for people not giving him their support. I’ve been told that Labour are in favour of open borders, and would flood the country with immigrants. Diane Abbott is also bitterly hated, and among the sneers I’ve heard thrown at the Labour leader is the accusation that he had an affair with her. Well, he might have, but that’s his own business and doesn’t affect his policies or how he intends to govern. Abbott is perceived by many as anti-White. I remember the quotation the Scum attributed to her in the 1987 general election ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she really said it, but I doubt she believes it now. She’s friends with Michael Portillo, so I don’t think she regards him as racist. But her continuing anti-racism means that she is perceived by some as anti-White. And this also extends to Corbyn through their close professional relationship. And then there are the antics of the Labour right and their determination to bring Corbyn down through splits, rumours of splits,  right-wing female Labour MPs trying to claim that he’s a misogynist and the endless lying and partisanship of the media.

It reminded me very much of the elections in the 1980s and the abuse and smears hurled at the Labour leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Labour lost those elections, and Lobster has published a number of articles explaining how, under the circumstances, it would have been difficult for Labour to win.

But I don’t believe that we should give up hope just yet.

Labour’s manifesto was popular. People do want a return to the old social democratic consensus of a welfare state, mixed economy, and nationalised NHS. Prviatisation hasn’t worked, services are still crumbling and Boris will soon show how empty his promises about building hospitals and putting more money into the Health Service are. It’s just that, for the people who voted Tory in the north and midlands, Brexit took precedence.

And I feel that Corbyn has also given people hope. Before Corbyn’s election, I was extremely pessimistic about the survival of the NHS because all of the parties were participating in its privatisation. But Corbyn showed that its privatisation was not inevitable, at least at the hands of Labour. Which is no doubt partly the reason why the Labour Thatcherites are now queuing up to blame him for the election defeat. I do feel very strongly that Corbyn has set a very firm basis for a future Labour party to build on and grow from here, provided it finds a suitable successor.

I do not want another Blair.

Also, my guess is that this defeat will also make the true Labour supporters more determined. Always remember: an animal is most dangerous when it is cornered. I’ve heard tweets from people calling for new, more aggressive forms of resistance like the occupation of Jobcentres. And these will come. People will think up new ways of getting Labour’s message across.

And Boris hasn’t and won’t solve this country’s problems. Sooner or later some people, at least, will have to realise what I sham and a fraud the Tories are.

Let’s make it sooner.