Posts Tagged ‘Alan Milburn’

Vox Political: Tories Nudging People into Paying for Healthcare and Part-Privatisation of Hospitals

December 21, 2016

On Monday Mike also put up a very alarming post about the numbers of patients that have chosen to pay for private treatment in NHS hospitals. Previously, the number of private patients NHS hospitals could take was capped at 2 per cent. The Tories have passed legislation allowing hospitals to raise 49 per cent of their income from private patients. In the last four years, the number of patients choosing to pay has risen to 23 per cent. Most of these are people desperate to avoid long waiting lists. The figures reveal that the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment has risen by 54 per cent.

Mike makes the point that he is not surprised people are paying for private care on the NHS, because the Tories have tried to ‘nudge’ people into going private because of the way they are deliberately underfunding the NHS to create the long waiting lists patients wish to avoid. as Mike says

They are softening us up for full NHS privatisation.

Mike makes the point that he doesn’t blame those, who have chosen to pay. But those who cannot afford to pay must still wait. And if the NHS is fully privatised, they will be unable to afford healthcare.

He also makes the point that it is unknown what sacrifices people are making now, in order to pay for the healthcare.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/19/the-evil-tory-policy-that-nudges-people-into-paying-for-their-healthcare/

This is a very important article, as it shows how far we are teetering over the precipice of a fully private healthcare system.

This follows more than three decades of Thatcherite policy. Thatcher wanted to privatise the health service, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. And also that her personal secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had told her just how bad private medicine worked after she had sent him to investigate it in America. She therefore contented herself with setting the target of getting 25 per cent of the British public to take out private health insurance.

This was followed by the gradual, piecemeal privatisation of parts of the NHS, beginning with opticians and dentistry, the introduction of privately managed hospitals under PFI during John Major’s occupation of No. 10, and then the further privatisation of the NHS by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Alan Milburn wanted the NHS to be a just a kitemark on services provided by purely private medical firms. The Blairites passed legislation splitting the NHS up into Community Care Groups, which can also raise money through private means, and encouraging NHS trusts to buy in services from private healthcare contractors. The policlinics and health centres they encouraged to be built were intended to be operated privately. This policy has been extended and advanced even further by Jeremy Hunt and the Tories. Hunt has even publicly attacked the NHS, stating that it should be broken up and privatised.

As for what happens when people cannot afford healthcare, and the sacrifices they have to make, you only have to look at America. About 20 per cent of the US population were unable to afford medical care before Obama introduced Obamacare. Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy, or at least one of the top three, in the US. A study in Texas of the poor, who were unable to afford medical treatment, investigated how they coped. They found that people borrowed drugs from neighbours, or, in a small number of cases, used medicine intended for animals they acquired from vets.

A Tory friend of mine, who hates private medicine, told me some real horror stories he’d heard about America. Over there, some people with a terminal illness, have chosen to forgo treatment, as this would eat up the money they wish to pass for their children.

And he also had a few sharp things to say about the Australian healthcare system. He believed that if a person called for medical treatment for someone, who didn’t have insurance, the person calling for the treatment could be saddled with the bill. And so there is a strong disincentive for people not to call for medical aid, including for those seriously ill.

If the Tories realise Thatcher’s dream of privatising the health service, this will come to Britain. Don’t let it.

The Threatened Return of Tony Blair to British Politics

November 23, 2016

The I newspaper today carried the news that Tony Blair wants to return to British politics. Apparently, the former PM thinks that his reputation is ‘recoverable’. There wasn’t much more to the piece than that, the rest of the small snippet being composed of two other newspapers reactions to this news. One of them quoted Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, who claimed that without Blair making Britain join Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the Labour party would not be led by Jeremy Corbyn today.

I can see his point. Blair’s participation in an illegal war, which has turned the country into a blood bath, facilitated the rise of Daesh, and led to the deaths of so many brave men and women, simply so the multinationals and the Saudis can loot the country’s oil and other industries, is one of the major reasons why voters became increasingly disenchanted with the Labour party and its Tory leadership. But there were many other reasons besides.

Basically, Blair was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that are gutting our precious health and school systems. They were expanded by Cameron, and are being carried on apace by Theresa May, but Blair was responsible for starting them.

These policies include

* The privatisation of the NHS, with the piecemeal dismantlement of the Health Service into ‘community care groups’, intended to be able to commission private health care companies to provide medical services; the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, launched by the Tories’ Peter Lilley, which has burden hospitals with massive debts, all for the profit of private companies; deliberate outsourcing of medical services to private healthcare companies; and the establishment of ‘polyclinics’ or walk-in medical centres, again as private firms. Alan Milburn had the goal of reducing the NHS to a kitemark on services provided by private healthcare providers.

* The launch of the disastrous academies. These were set up by Blair as City Academies, and based on an idea Norman Baker rolled out under Thatcher, but which had to be abandoned because even they realised it was rubbish. The academies are monstrously expensive, in many cases costing nearly ten times as much as the budget given to the LEA for all the schools in its catchment area. They are highly selective, and in many cases also extremely discriminatory, using mass expulsions and exclusion to get rid of difficult pupils, or students, who are less able than their fellows, in order to keep their academic ratings artificially high. Despite this, about 80 per cent of them are no better than the LEA schools against which they compete, and the excellent results of the other 20 per cent are no more than you would expect, if each individual state school received £20-£30 million in funding.

* The massive expansion of corporate power into the mechanism of government, with unelected managing directors and company heads being given positions on government committees and quangos.

* Massive backing for the supermarkets, despite these harming local businesses and exploiting their suppliers through highly unfair and manipulative contracts.

* Continuing the Tory policy of deregulating and favouring the financial sector, with the result that all the safeguards that could have prevented the 2008 crash were removed. And that led to the current situation, where ordinary people are being pushed further into poverty, while the bankers are back enjoying massive bonuses and corporate bail-outs.

* The further cutting of the benefits system, including the introduction of the Work Capability Tests, which have seen tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of disabled people thrown off benefits, declared ‘fit for work’, and left to struggle and die in poverty. Several hundred have so far died as a direct result of being left without an income due to these tests.

* Privatisation of the prison service. Blair was approached and lobbied by American private prison operators, like Wackenhut, about handing the running of British prisons over to them.

* The passage of further legislation intended to weaken whatever remained of the power of trade unions.

* Oh yes, and the privatisation, or at least the part-privatisation, of the Post Office.

He was also responsible for the further, massive expansion of the surveillance state, secret courts and expanding the length of time prisoners can be held without charge.

I realise that these policies weren’t new. Many of them, like the PFI and the City Academies, were recycled Tory ideas, as were his privatisations, including the NHS, and the welfare reforms, which were deliberately intended to cut welfare support to the unemployed and long-term sick. But Blair did not have a mandate for them, and in opposition had explicitly condemned them. And in fact, Blair 1997 election victory was such that he could have comfortably reversed them with no threat of losing votes to the Tories.

But he didn’t. He carried on with the policies he’d inherited from Thatcher and Major, policies which have been in turn passed on and expanded by Cameron and May. These policies also played no small part in creating the disenfranchisement of large sections of the working class from British politics, and alienating traditional, working class Labour voters as Blair chased the votes of the middle class and rich. And these policies on their own should be enough to make people heartily sick and tired of him. Coupled with his illegal, murderous wars in the Middle East, they present an overwhelming argument against him making a comeback.

Blair possibly believes that if he returns to British politics, his presence will be enough to rally the neoliberal troops in the Labour party, oust Jeremy Corbyn, and make the party ‘electable’, or rather, palatable to Britain’s corrupt, bloated and exploitative establishment again.

Let’s show the vile, corporate warmonger that he’s very, very wrong.

Lib Dems Aim at Winning Blairites from Labour

September 21, 2016

Also in the I newspaper today, right opposite the report about the three pro-Corbyn councillors, who have been suspended from the local party in Bristol, was the news that the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made a bid to win over right-wing Labour voters in his speech at their party conference.

The article states

Tim Farron cast himself as the heir to Tony Blair yesterday as he delivered a direct appeal to disillusioned Labour voters to switch allegiance to the Liberal Democrats.

Only his party can prevent a 25-year-long Conservative “stranglehold over government”, he insisted in his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

Mr Farron coupled praise for many of Tony Blair’s achievements in office with a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn for viewing winning general elections as a “bourgeois distraction”…

Targeting the centrist Labour supporters, the Lib Dem leader said he believed Mr Blair made many serious mistakes, but admired him for achievements such as investing in schools and hospitals and introducing the national minimum wage.

“I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win. Otherwise, you’re letting your opponent get stuff done instead, ” Mr Farron said.

Farron and his supporters are keen to promote the idea that the party is undergoing a revival after losing all but eight seats in the elections last year. The same article quotes him as saying that by next year, his party will be the only thing standing between another Tory election victory.

But Farron has already confirmed my negative opinion of his party, and my decision that I won’t vote for them. Tony Blair and his supporters aren’t centrists. By the standards of the 1980s, they’re actually extreme right-wing Tories. I don’t mean they’re extreme right in that they’re racist, misogynist or hate gays. They’re not. But they are extremely right-wing in that they took over Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policy of privatising everything she could, including parts of the NHS. Blair took this over and massively expanded it. Alan Milburn wanted to reduce the health service to a logo on services provided by the private sector. See NHS-SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis. As for investing in hospitals, this is a moot point that needs qualification. Blair did invest in hospitals under the PFI initiative, a policy set up by that prancing snob Peter Lilley deliberately to open up the NHS to private investment. Under the PFI, the hospitals built are smaller than those constructed using conventional financing methods, and are actually much more expensive. These costs are met by closing and amalgamating other hospitals. Farron might consider these as mistakes, but they are an integral part of the system. Blair was responsible for closing down local hospitals in order to create a part-privatised system that was more wasteful than the previous, wholly state-owned, state-funded NHS. But it got him plaudits from the Right as the true anointed heir of Thatcher, barrels of money given to him and his continuity group, Progress, from donors in the private medical industry.

Much the same could be said of his education policy. This essentially consisted of the Simpering Scrounger taking over Norman Baker’s policy of city colleges outside the Local Education Authorities, which even the Tories ditched as a useless dud. Just as he did with Anderson Consulting, who had also been ditched by the Tories, Blair picked them up and adopted the policy as his own. The only difference is that he tried to make the wretched scheme look better by calling them ‘city academies’ and then just ‘academies’. Like the PFI hospitals, they’re massively more expensive than ordinary schools. They can cost something like £24-35 million, far more than the funding given to LEAs for all the schools they have to run. And like the PFI hospitals, it’s another part-privatisation where the taxpayer effectively picks up the bill. They’re given over to the management of second-rate entrepreneurs, often with extreme dodgy ideas on what counts as proper education. Poor, and children with exceptional needs, like the less academic, or disruptive pupils, are not taken, or expelled at an alarming rate in order to keep the wealthy, intellectually able kids the schools needs to show they’re improving standards. But they don’t. They’re actually little better than state schools. Where they have improved standards, it’s simply due to the vastly larger funding they’ve been given. These would have also improved standards in state schools, if they had been so fortunate as been given them. See Francis Beckett’s The Great City Academy Fraud.

The only person, who’s shown a genuine commitment to restoring standards and the integrity of our schools and health service, after these have been decimated by nearly four decades of Tory and New Labour misrule, is Jeremy Corbyn. By aiming to win the Blairites over to his party, Farron has shown that he effectively supports all the policies Blair and the Tories have done ever since Maggie. The rise of mass starvation in our society, and the incalculable poverty, disease and despair that will result if the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS goes ahead, show that these are policies are country cannot afford. Like the Tories, the Lib Dems should not be given any power in forthcoming elections.

American Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s Universal Healthcare Advert

August 7, 2016

After Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist candidate to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee was blocked by the Democratic party machine and its head, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, many of those on the left wing of the party have increasingly turned to the Greens and their presidential candidate, Jill Stein. Stein also stands for expanding the minimal welfare provision, social justice and universal healthcare as well as protecting the environment. In this short video, Stein pledges her support for universal Medicare. The video notes that 58 per cent of the American people want something like Britain’s NHS. She makes the point that she’s a medical doctor, who’s acutely aware of how poverty affects people’s healthcare. She states that Obamacare has added another layer of bureaucracy to the system, and as it’s in the hands of private insurers, these companies can decided who to keep on their books and who to reject as they can’t afford it. She promises a full healthcare, which will cover opticians and dentistry, as well as mental and reproductive health.

This is exactly what the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Tories since Margaret Thatcher, have been trying to deprive the British public. Thatcher wanted to dismantle the welfare state, including the NHS. Alan Milburn wanted the NHS to become only a kitemark for healthcare services provided by private healthcare companies. And Owen Smith wrote a pro-privatisation puff piece when he was working for Pfizer.

And like Jeremy Corbyn over here, Dr. Stein has similarly been smeared. It’s been claimed that she’s ‘anti-science’, which is rich coming from an American political establishment which denies climate change, using very selective research sponsored by the oil giants. In an interview on Watching the Hawks over at RT, Dr Stein talks about this, and how she authored a book, along with other socially aware medical doctors, discussing the threats to children’s developmental health from pollution and so on. Apparently, her Conservative opponents tried telling everyone that she was against vaccination. She states firmly that when she and her colleagues looked at the list of health threats to children, vaccines ‘weren’t even on the list, so I don’t where they got that from.’

The neoliberal consensus is facing a radical challenge and the supposed ‘left-wing’ establishment, both here and in the US, is running scared. But it’s radical politicians like Sanders, Stein and Corbyn that are injecting new life into politics and justly attacking a corrupt and oppressive system.

Vox Political on Owen Smith and the Privatisation of the NHS

July 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece discussing Owen Smith’s contradictory attitudes towards the NHS. Smith claims he believes in a ‘100 per cent’ publicly owned NHS, and hugely admires Nye Bevan. Except eleven years ago, when he was working as a PR man for the drug giant, Pfizer. The company had produced a report endorsing the policy of opening up the NHS to private companies. Smith declared “We believe that choice is a good thing and that patients and healthcare professionals should be at the heart of developing the agenda.” Smith’s endorsement of creating greater private sector involvement in the NHS had been revealed by the Times, whom he accused of doing ‘a hatchet’ job, and he was challenged about his comments on Radio 4. That was when he spoke about believing in a publicly owned NHS. He has also said that he would prevent further involvement of private companies in the NHS. As for his comments in 2005, he tried to shrug them off, saying that this was when Labour was using ‘choice’ to describe hip, knee and cataract operations. He also claimed that it was a gross distortion to refer to a report commissioned by Pfizer before he worked there. Mike points out that this is immaterial. The date the report was commissioned is irrelevant, as Smith was working for Pfizer when it was published, and he date make the comments endorsing it.

Mike also makes the point that the Tories – Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and now probably Theresa May, have all made speeches stating that they believe in a nationalised health service, while doing everything they can to privatise it. And stating that he would prevent further public sector involvement is also contrary to what the masses of Labour supporters actually want, which is that privatisation should be reversed and the private sector removed from the NHS.

Mike has also put up a couple of memes pointing out the contrasts between what Smith says, and what he does. For example, he says he is against nukes, but votes for Trident. He states that he is against austerity, but doesn’t vote against austerity measures. He also can’t make up his mind on whether he supported the Iraq invasion or not.

Mike also quotes the report on this in the Guardian, which says But he conceded that Labour made a mistake while in power for the way it communicated the use of private providers in the NHS.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/21/owen-smiths-vision-for-the-nhs-is-the-same-as-the-conservative-partys/

There’s a considerable amount of deliberate falsehood and distortion in Smith’s statements, beyond what Mike has identified. Firstly, New Labour was committed to a policy of NHS extensive NHS privatisation. NHS – SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis provides extensive evidence that Blair’s Labour party wanted to privatise the NHS and introduce a system of insurance-funded healthcare similar to that in America. It was not simply a case of private companies performing a limited range of operations, such as knee and hip operations. Furthermore, New Labour, like Maggie Thatcher and the Tories before them, realised that if they made the extent of their plans to privatise the NHS public, they’d lose the election. Hence they were very keen to keep the whole process quiet. Remember – Alan Milburn stated that he wanted to keep the NHS as a logo for services delivered by private companies under an NHS ‘brand’. So Smith’s endorsement of NHS privatisation, along with the official policy of the Labour party at the time, was much more radical than he is now claiming.

Whatever Smith says now about supporting a publicly owned NHS is false. He supported its privatisation over a decade ago, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that his views have changed since, or are substantially much different from those of his Conservative opponents.

From 2002: Kaiser Healthcare Lobbies for NHS Work

January 31, 2015

Private Eye published this article below in their edition for 12th – 25th July 2002. It discusses the lobbying of the then-Labour government for NHS contracts by Kaiser Permanente, a US private healthcare company. As a private company, Kaiser Permanente did not provide cover for the poorest fifth of the US population. This is pretty much indicative of the companies now queuing up for access to the health service, now being privatised piecemeal by the Tories. And if this continues, this is how British healthcare will look after the NHS is privatised.

Hail Kaiser!

While health ministers inside the House of Commons continue to accuse the Tories of intending to privatise the NHS, outside the Commons they themselves are showing increasing sign of sympathy with moves to, er, privatise the NHS.
In
Eye 1056 we referred to a paper in the British Medical Journal by American doctors pointing out the advantages of Kaiser Permanente, a huge private health organisation in California with keen ambitions to expand in the UK.

On 20 June the annual lecture of the Office of Health Economics, financed entirely by the drugs industry, was delivered in the prestigious headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians. The speaker was David Lawrence, departing chief executive of Kaiser Permanente. He outlined the tremendous advantages of providing health care the Kaiser way, without making any effort to deal with the chief objection: that as a private organisation financed by private insurance, Kaiser cannot and does not provide health care for the poorest 20 percent of California’s population.

The NHS, on the other hand, does not exclude anyone on grounds of income or wealth. The Eye’s many spies at the lecture, which was packed with representatives of the drug companies (though the health department was conspicuous by its absence), describe Dr Lawrence’s performance as “long on charm, short on facts.”

Almost simultaneously, and naturally by coincidence, the authors of the original pro-Kaiser paper in the BMJ have replied in that journal to the loud and almost universal criticism of it from defenders of the NHS. Somehow, rather like Dr Lawrence, the fails to deal with the main and obvious criticism that Kaiser does not provide health care for the poorest (and therefore usually the sickest) fifth of the population.

In his speech Lawrence referred several times to his cooperation with and admiration for “Don” – believed to be a reference to Don Berwick, a keen American medical privatiser who has just been appointed by the government to the National Health Service modernisation board.

Meanwhile more news about Kaiser comes to the Eye from the Los Angeles Times whose 17 May issue carried the curious headline: KAISER CLERKS PAID MORE FOR HELPING LESS. The paper revealed that in 200 and 2001, call centre clerks working for Kaiser could earn bonuses of up to 10 percent of their salaries if they spent less than three minutes 45 seconds on the phone per patient.

The call centres were available to Kaiser’s three million members in Northern California. The bonus system was denounced by the California Nurses Association, representing Kaiser’s registered nurses. They complained that the call centre system allowed unlicensed telephone clerks to make decisions about scheduling appointments or referring patients to medical advice nurses. The association claimed such a task was restricted by state law to “licensed medical personnel”. The newspaper also quotes a doctor at one of the call centres describing the system as “a barrier between patients and their clinical providers”.

While a substantial section of the medical establishment sucks up to Kaiser, there are increasing signs of the close relationship between the government, the Labour party and the private health and drugs industries. On 27th May, for instance, health minister Lord Hunt, a champion of PFI in the health service, opened the spanking new High Wycombe Centre for the drugs company Pharmacia; and the Fabian Society, a constituent part of the Labour Party , whose founders proclaimed the advantages of public ownership, is running a monthly lecture (plus the usual buffet lunch) as part of its Health Policy Forum, proudly inaugurated last October by health secretary Alan Milburn.

The forum is in association with (and mostly paid for by) the enormous French drugs company Aventis, whose annual turnover is $18bn.

Ed Miliband has made it clear he intends to reverse the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. He needs our support, and provides hope that the NHS can be saved.

Libertarian Alliance on Rightwing Entryism into Labour

January 31, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political suggested that just as the extreme Right and Left have a policy of entryism – infiltrating more moderate parties and organisations in order to take them over and radicalise, so some ostensible Labour party members with free market views were really Tories, who had similarly infiltrated Labour. He was particularly discussing Alan Milburn, the former Labour health secretary, who criticised Ed Miliband’s speech about expanding the NHS. During his period in office, Milburn was extremely active with Patricia Hewitt in promoting the introduction of private healthcare into the NHS and its piecemeal privatisation.

Connected to the New Labour project was the thinktank Demos. This was ostensibly left-wing, but in fact contained a number of extremely right-wing business leaders and academics. It has been described by one of the leaders of the Libertarian Alliance as

a cavalry of Trojan horses within the citadel of leftism. The intellectual agenda is served up in a left wing manner, laced with left wing clichés and verbal gestures, but underneath all the agenda is very nearly identical to that of the Thatcherites.

See the article ‘Demos’, by William Clark in Lobster 45, Summer 2003.

There you have it. The Libertarians themselves have more or less stated that the free marketeers in Labour are entryists. It’s high time support was shown to Miliband, and these Trojan horses put out to grass.

From 2005: Failure of Private Medical Scans Brought into NHS

January 31, 2015

I found this article in Private Eye’s edition for the 19th August – 1st September 2005, reporting the extremely poor performance of the private MRI scans administered by Alliance and Medical as part of the then Labour government’s privatisation of the NHS. They were so poor, that the results had to be double-checked by NHS staff.

Alliance Medical
Double Cheques

Last June, as part of Labour’s drive to transfer NHS duties to the private sector, health minister John Hutton awarded a £95m scanning contract to Alliance Medical. he claimed that private MRI scans would increase capacity and prove “good value for money”.

The deal was certainly good value for Alliance and its parent company Bridgepoint Capital, which – by an eerie coincidence – was employing Alan Milburn MP as a £30,000-a-year consultant at the time when Milburn’s old flatmate John Hutton awarded the contract. But it didn’t turn out to be quite such good news for patients, especially as most of the scan images were sent abroad for analysis – leading to delays, language misunderstandings and mistakes in diagnoses.

“I think everyone acknowledges that it has been a complete disaster,” Dr Gill Markham, chair of the BMA’s radiology sub-committee, told the Today programme in February.

After early complaints about the quality of Alliance’s work, the government appointed Professor Adrian Dixon of the Royal College Radiologists as a “national clinical guardian” to monitor standards. According to documents obtained by the Eye, Prof Dixon’s advice is that “because of anxieties concerning reports in the first few months of the contract, it would seem prudent that cases scheduled for surgery or similar intervention on the basis of an AML
[Alliance Medical Ltd] report issued up to the end of 2004 should be discussed with the local radiology department.”

In other words, scans carried out last year by Alliance now have to be double-checked by NHS radiologists – thus placing an extra burden on the health service’s time and resources.

Alliance’s failures haven’t deterred ministers, however. In July, health secretary Patricia Hewitt announced a “choice of scans” programme whereby people waiting more than six months for various diagnostic tests – including MRI and CAT scans – will be able to go beyond their local provider and get a speedier service from private firms such as Alliance. But how speedy are they? In an audit of Alliance’s work for the NHS, conducted in May, Prof Dixon discovered that although the company scanned patients more quickly, this advantage was sometimes lost because Alliance was then “twice as slow” to report the results.

In a direct comparison of Alliance’s work with that of its NHS counterparts, Dixon noted that “the language was better in most NHS-generated reports”, and that “clinical opinion was judged slightly better in most NHS reports”.

The Royal College reacted to the audit by warning that Alliance is only “suitable for non-complex examinations”. It added that NHS staff should keep a “clerical/governance” check on Alliance work to make sure that reports about “serious lesions” are spotted and fast-tracked.

The Eye asked the department of health if – and how – it would be funding all this extra double-checking work, but answer came there none.

This story is still important, as the government is privatising the NHS piecemeal under the assumption that private enterprise is more efficient. As this story shows, it is not. Indeed, without the results being double-checked by the NHS, the poor results of the private medical scans would be a danger to patients’ health.

The privatisation of the NHS needs to be stopped. Now.

Private Eye on the Costs to NHS of Free Market Reforms

January 28, 2015

Some idea of the immense cost to the NHS of various Tory and New Labour reforms to introduce the free market into the NHS can be gained from a piece Private Eye ran about them in their issue for the 15th – 30th May 2009. This commented on the campaign by Labour’s health minister, Lord Darzi, to find further savings in the NHS by pointing out just how much administrative costs had risen. Here it is.

Efficiency Savings
Prize Chump

Health minister Lord Darzi is dangling a financial carrot to encourage NHS staff to help the government find efficiencies and savings of £15bn over the next three years. Rewards of up to £5 each will go to those who most impress the panel of experts in Darzi’s den, which holds a total pot of £240m in prize money.

Darzi cites challenges such as combating the increasing burden of childhood obesity, or dementia in the elderly. But how about tackling the so-called “transaction costs” of healthcare, started by the introduction of the internal market by the Tories and accelerated by Labour’s privatisation agenda?

In the old NHS days, administrative costs were no more than 5 percent of its annual budget. By the mid-90s they accounted for 12 percent. With subsequent wholesale market-based measures such as payments by results, patient choice and self-governing foundation trusts, coupled with the costs of management consultants, private finance initiatives, independent treatment centres etc, administrative costs have soared to 20 percent of the budget about 20bn a year.

Reduce that and Darzi can make his savings in one go. Or how about axing the most disastrous computer project in British history, the NHS National Programme for IT – £12.7bn and rising? Cheques please to Lord Gnome.

So there it is in black and white: £20bn eaten up in administrative costs through the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS initiated by Peter Lilley.

And this is the system that Alan Milburn and the Blairites are so keen to defend.

Vox Political on Private Healthcare Overcharging the NHS

January 27, 2015

Rapacious Quack

18th Century Satirical Print: The Rapacious Quack. It depicts a poor family at the mercy of a doctor, who has taken away a flitch of bacon in lieu of unpaid fees. Its caption reads
‘The Rapacious Quack quite vext to find,
His patient poor, and so forsaken
A thought soon sprung up in his mind
To take away a piece of bacon.’
Which just about describes the grasping attitude of the private healthcare firms mentioned in the report.

Earlier this evening I blogged a piece on Mike’s story over at Vox Political on Ed Miliband’s promise to rebuild and strengthen the NHS. The piece is Will voters support Labour’s vision for the NHS? and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/27/will-voters-support-labours-vision-for-the-nhs/. It offers hope for an NHS decimated by the Tories, but also by Blair and Brown.

Mike also wonders in the piece whether Alan Milburn, Blair’s former health secretary, is really a member of the Labour party, or a Tory, who has worked his way into Labour to undermine it. He isn’t the only one. A few weeks ago, Johnny Void pointed out how one of the authors of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report suggesting the establishment of a national network of food banks was Frank Field, and made the same comments about him. Field is notorious for recommending further cuts to the welfare state to encourage unemployed hoi polloi to find work. And it isn’t only his critics, who have suggested he should join the Tories. He also has admirers within that party, who’ve actually made the invitation. The politically Conservative Cranmer blog actually invited Field to cross the floor and join the Tories.

And the same comments could have been made about much of the New Labour leadership. Remember the computer programme back in the 1990s that made anagrams from politicians’ names, supposedly revealing their real character? Michael Portillo was ‘a cool, limp Hitler’. Blair came out as ‘I am Tory Plan B’. Lobster compared Blair to Ted Heath. Both were men leading the wrong parties. Giles Brandreth, who served on John Major’s Tory cabinet in the 1990s, on Have I Got News For You described the Blairs, both Tony and Cherie, as natural Tories. They were, and they similarly pursued a policy of privatising the NHS piecemeal.

In the first few years of this century Patricia Hewitt wanted to sell of the £64bn commissioning and supply arm of the NHS, but ended up having to reject the plan, claiming it was mistaken. She therefore just privatised hospital management. And one of the brilliant ideas of Blair’s administration was the inclusion of private healthcare companies to pick up work that could not be done by an overstretched NHS. Who was the brains behind this, ahem, operation?

Alan Milburn.

And in 2009 Private Eye carried a story about an independent report that concluded the private healthcare providers were overcharging the NHS, including billing for work they did not carry out. The article was in their edition for the 15th – 30th May. Here it is.

NHS Plc.
ISTCs: A Crying Sham

Another crumbling New Labour initiative, independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) for NHS operations, has ben exposed as a shambolic waste of money.

ISTCs were supposed to provide low-cost operations to an overstretched NHS. But the have long been suspected of creaming off the most lucrative ones under favourable contracts without providing the quality to be found in the NHS.

A 2006 parliamentary report questioned their value for money and asked the National Audit Office to look into it. Several billions of pounds of public money were at stake, but the audit body has oddly shied away from the subject despite reportedly expressing some concern over the ISTCs’ performance and £100m+ procurement costs 18 months ago.

Now academics Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood at Edinburgh University have obtained the contract for one ISTC under Scottish freedom of information laws (contracts in England remain confidential). This shows that the NHS in Tayside paid an ISTC run by Amicus Healthcare – a joint venture of private equity firm Apax and South Africa’s Netcare – for 90 percent of referrals even though the centre only performed 32 percent of them. The academics estimate that Tayside’s overpayments could be dwarfed by those across England, where the NHS could have been stung by up to £927m for operations not performed.

The £5bn ISTC programme was pushed through by the Department of Health’s commercial directorate, set up in 2003 by the then health secretary, Alan Milburn, now earning £30k a year from the private equity firm Bridgepoint that owns ISTCs through Alliance Medical. The directorate was run by American Ken Anderson (since decamped to Swiss bank UBS’s private health investments) and was exposed by the Eye two years ago as home to 220 consultants on an average £238k a year, much channelled through tax-efficient service companies. It has since been quietly disbanded without ever having faced the scrutiny it warranted.

This effectively explains why Milburn was so keen to pour scorn on Miliband’s plans for the NHS: he’s working for a private equity firm that will lose work in that area if Miliband starts to take seriously the NHS’ commitment to providing free state medicine.

It also shows how better governed Scotland is than England. The two academics are able to get details like this through the Scots freedom of information act, which is denied to citizens south of the Border.

As for Amicus Healthcare, I remember Amicus as the American rival to Hammer films way back in the 1970s. Although American, they used much of the same actors and production staff. Sadly, Hammer and Amicus passed away, though the horror continues under the Amicus name.