Posts Tagged ‘Anne Maguire’

Private Eye in 2006 on the Closure of Health Services due to Privatisation in Redditch

September 23, 2013

Mike in the last post I’ve reblogged from his site has commented that the real problem behind Labour’s welfare policy is Unum. It is this criminal US insurance company that is sponsoring Anne Maguire’s invitation-only conference on welfare policy. The company has already sponsored similar events by Labour’s rivals, the Libdems and Conservatives. The fact that the Labour party is offering a platform to them indicates that its welfare policies differ little from those of the Coalition, despite its promises to sack Atos.

The privatisation of the NHS began under the Conservatives, but was continued and expanded under New Labour as part of Blair’s ‘Third Way’. In their issue for the 9th to 22nd June 2006, Private Eye reported how the costs of the Private Finance Initiative was forcing the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch to consider closing its maternity, paediatric and gynaecology units. Furthermore, there was evidence to suggest that the Primary Care Trust was referring orthopaedic patients not to the Alexandra Hospital, but to a private hospital in Kidderminster. The article runs

‘how NHS Privatisation Works

Double Whammy

Question: Why can’t the Alexandra hospital in Redditch do aaything to prevent the threatened closure of its maternity, paediatric and gynaecology units?

Answer: Because it is caught between a rock and a hard place in New Labour’s privatisation of the NHS and is powerless to act.

One of eight hospitals in the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, the Alex receives payments from its local Primary Care Trust (PCT) for treating the patients the PCT refers to it. However, the two trusts on which they Alex depends are both having to pay such a high price for privatisation initiatives elsewhere that through no fault of its own, deep cuts are now threatened at the NHS hospital.

The first problem for the Alex is that the Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust is saddled with a £30 m deficit which, campaigners claim, is largely due to the crazy sums it has had to pay for a PFI hospital in Worcester (See Eyes passim). Given the 30 m black hole, and the fact that hospital managers cannot cut their payments to their PFI contractors in Worcester (Catalyst Healthcare: a consortium of Bovis, Sodexho and Bank of Scotland), they are looking for savings elsewhere in the NHS and considering a plan to cut 720 jobs, which includes closing maternity and related services at the Alex.

Ironically, these NHS cuts at the Alex in Redditch might actually mean more money being paid to the PFI contractors in Worcester. For under the PFI deal, if more than 90 per cent of the beds at the Worcester hospital are occupied at any one time, the hospital trust must make extra payments to the consortium. So, if Redditch women continue to have babies after their local maternity unit is closed, and if they then travel to Worcester to give birth, they will fill beds at the PFI hospital and trigger extra payments to the private sector. Brilliant!

Meanwhile the Eye has seen documents suggesting that managers at the Alex believe their local Primary Care Trust is diverting orthopaedic patients away from the Alex to a private unit in Kidderminster. The PCT, it turns out, has a block contract with a private Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC) run by Canadian firm Inter Health; and it has to pay for a certain number of operations at the ISTC each year whether the private firm carries out the work or not.

Last year the PCT tried to negotiate away a £193,000 overspend with Inter Health because of “under utilisation”; and the trust’s latest Financial Risk Plan warns that up to £1m could be lost this year unless it restricts NHS activity while “maximising use of ISTC capacity”. So yet more money will be diverted away from hospitals like the Alex.

The internal document from senior staff at the Alex claims: “the local PCT are advising a lot of patients that the waiting time is longer than it actually is at the Alex and therefore would they like to travel to the Independent Treatment Centre at Kidderminster.”

The PCT denied to the Eye that it was trying to force patients to go private in Kidderminster, claiming that patients and doctors made their own decisions based on “informed choice”. Yeah, right.

A local campaign to “Save the Alex” has been launched, but New Labour ministers remain committed to both the PFI and ISTC schemes. Rather than provoke cuts, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt claimed they would”build capacity” in the NHS. Some mistake, surely?’

This story more or less illustrates everything that’s wrong with the Private Finance Initiatives and the gradual privatisation of the NHS by successive Right-wing administrations. It shows how the NHS is being starved of money, and forced to make further cuts in order to finance inefficient private health companies, which include multinational corporations seeking to make a profit over here. It shows how local health care is frequently closed down and sacrificed for the profit of these private companies elsewhere. This does not just include hospitals. I’ve already blogged a piece from a previous Private Eye about the closure of three GP’s surgeries in London after their clinic was taken over by a private health care company. In contrast to the rhetoric put out by the American and Tory supporters of private health care, it clearly is not more efficient. Indeed, it is much less so, especially as it needs to be supported by the state to gain funding.

The Tories in the run-up to last year’s election suggested that they would end the PFI. They haven’t, and won’t. That was another broken election promise from a party whose members, such as Iain Duncan Smith, have consistently lied and dissembled about the detrimental effects their policies have to the poor. It is not just New Labour that uses lies and spin. The corruption and indifference to the needs of patients extends even to the commissioning authorities. At the moment, the only local authorities, which commission health care, who have written into their constitution that private firms may only be used when this is of benefit to the patient is Bristol and one of the London boroughs. This will continue as long as there exists the revolving door by which ministers and civil servants join private companies as directors once they retire or leave government. For these people, it really is a case of ‘trebles all round’, in the words of Private Eye. And hang the ordinary patients.

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