Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Permanente’

Tory Group Supported by Liam Fox Wants Private American Firms to Take Over NHS after Brexit

November 2, 2018

Yesterday, Mike put up a grim piece of news. The Institute of Free Trade has issued a report, edited by the Eurosceptic Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, recommending that after Brexit private American healthcare companies should compete with the NHS to run hospitals. The IFT also has the backing of the International Trade Minister Liam Fox. The IFT has also said that Britain should accept American environmental standards as equivalent to British, and end the ban on certain American imports like chlorinated chicken. These moves, the report argues, would allow Britain to rewrite the rules of global trade and embrace new trading freedoms after Britain leaves the EU.

As well as having the support of Fox, who is also in favour of feeding us all chlorinated American chicken, it’s also backed by Boris Johnson. Which shows you exactly how both Fox and Johnson hate the NHS, the British environment and food hygiene and standards.

Mike in his article concludes

So there you have it. It seems Brexit is being supported by the Conservatives as the excuse they need to fully privatise the National Health Service – or at least, the profitable parts of it.

They have tricked us into voting away our international reputation, our rights, our economy, and now – it seems – our health service.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/01/american-firms-should-run-hospitals-for-profit-after-brexit-says-group-supported-by-trade-minister/

I am not surprised that Daniel Hannan was involved in the compilation of this despicable document. The French philosophical Feline over at Guy Debord’s Cat has been critiquing him for donkey’s years. Hannan’s a right-wing Tory MEP for Dorset and is, or was, something to do with the Torygraph. And he hates the NHS and has demanded its privatization on numerous occasions. And like his party, he’s a shameless liar. So great is his mendacity that the Cat refers to him as ‘the Lyin’ King’.

As for American healthcare firms wanting to get their piece of juicy NHS action, that was always what the piecemeal privatization of the NHS was about. Peter Lilley, who pranced up and down with his cretinous little list of people he hated in front of the Tory conference in the 1990s, admitted that he created the Private Finance Initiative to open the NHS up to private enterprise. And the Tories great, molten idol, Maggie Thatcher, wanted to privatise the NHS completely. She was only stopped by a massive cabinet rebellion. But she and they still carried on with a plan to encourage people to take out private healthcare insurance and privatise whatever they could of the Health Service itself.

And Blair, Thatcher’s ideological spawn, fully endorsed this idea. The murderous work capability assessments were adopted on the recommendation and very definitely unscientific research by the American private health insurance firm, Unum. A firm prosecuted by the Federal government for massive fraud on its policy holders. Blair went ahead with the Tory’s part-privatization plans, opening up the Health Service to private healthcare companies and creating the CCGs which commission healthcare services, on a model taken from the American private healthcare company Kaiser Permanente.

And it’s also no real surprise that the Americans should want to come over here and steal our NHS. Thanks to those firms, the private healthcare system in America is damn well near collapse. A very large chunk of the American public can’t afford their insurance. Every year, tens if not hundreds of thousands die because they can’t afford treatment. The Young Turks have reported that down in Texas, people are hoarding medicines or taking drugs from vets because they can’t afford decent medical care. Other Americans are heading south into Mexico because medical treatment there is cheaper. Bernie Sanders, the very left-wing Democrat politician, has demanded Medicare For All – state payment for all Americans’ healthcare. The idea is gaining popularity, which is why the corporatist establishment, both Democrat and Republican, is trying to marginalize him and suppress the voting rights of the section of the American voting public, who support him. If you want to see what a trainwreck the American healthcare system is, and how badly Medicare For All is needed, go and read his book Our Revolution. In one chilling passage, he describes the tens of thousands of people, who sleep out in their cars once a month in Virginia, on the weekend that the dentists offer their work free. And a few years ago, the American healthcare system almost collapsed completely in certain areas.

This is what will happen over here, unless we kick the Tories out.

As for American environmental and food hygiene standards, they’re deplorable. The water in Flint, Michigan, is so polluted it should be undrinkable. And there are 25 other towns where it’s even worse. There are regular spills from the oil pipelines that cross the country, contaminating the water table. And thanks to Big Oil there are parts of the Louisiana swamps that are just one oily mess. But the Koch brothers spend big money to convince the American public that there’s no environmental threat here, and climate change isn’t happening.

This is also going to happen over here if Fox, Hannan and Johnson get their way. Don’t let them. Vote them out at the earliest opportunity.

Stephen Hawking’s Defends NHS as Hunt Lies about its Privatisation

August 22, 2017

I know the Tories will immediately complain about the title of this article, but that’s exactly what’s going on. The Tories have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal since the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher wanted to sell it off completely and replace it with an American-style insurance based system. Thatcher was prevented from doing so through a massive cabinet revolt, plus the fact that her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how appalling the American system was after he actually did some research and went there.

But the privatization is still going on. There was a mass exodus of dentists in the late ’80s-early ’90s, after Maggie – or was it Major?-refused to give them any more money. Then came Peter Lilley and his Private Finance Initiative, in which hospitals were to be built and run for the NHS by private contractors. Then New Labour expanded this massively, breaking up the NHS internal structure to model it after the American private healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. Blair was approached by a whole slew of American private healthcare companies. His idea was that hospitals and clinics should be taken over by private healthcare companies, like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and so on. The community care groups of doctors, which were supposed to commission healthcare for their patients, where to obtain it from both private healthcare providers as well as the NHS. And they were also given the powers to raise money from private enterprise.

And before anyone objects that Blair was a Socialist, no, he wasn’t. He had Clause 4 removed from the party’s constitution. He was also profoundly hostile to the trade unions, who have formed part of the very core of the Labour party since it was founded in the very early 20th century.

Blair was a true, blue Thatcherite. The first thing he did when he got into power was invite Thatcher round. And she responded warmly, declaring New Labour her greatest success. Remember, this is the woman, who proudly shouted about how she was going to destroy socialism.

And the Tories have carried on her project of gradually destroying the NHS, bit by bit, while loudly proclaiming how much they’re in favour of it.

The present Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is a prime example of this. He even wrote a book in which he declared how much better everything would be if we had a private healthcare system, like America.

Yeah, like America, where the poorer parts of the country don’t have any doctors at all, because it isn’t profitable. Where once a month, in Virginia, people sleep in cars overnight in order to join the queue for the doctor’s or dentists’ surgery offering free dental care that Saturday.

Where something like 20 million Americans can’t afford their medical coverage, and 30,000 people die every year because of this.

And where the Republicans and corporate Democrats have been lying and smearing Bernie Sanders, because he dared to run on a platform of ‘Medicare for all’. You know, giving Americans state-funded healthcare, like in the other parts of the world.

This is what the Tories are doing to Britain. And last week, as Mike reported on his blog, Stephen Hawking, the great cosmologist, called them out on it. He also accused Hunt of cherry-picking the data about the supposed deaths caused by NHS staff not working Saturdays.

Hunt got terribly upset about this, and declared that Hawking didn’t understand statistics.

This is a joke from a professional moron. Statistics are a vital part of science and medicine. Much of modern science, including astronomy and cosmology, is going through the data, trying to find something that is statistically significant. It can be time-consuming, tedious work, requiring sophisticated techniques to sort out what’s importance from apparently random results.

Hawking’s a physicist, who has been working with some extremely advanced maths as part of his investigation into the origins of the cosmos and the nature of Black Holes for his entire career. I don’t believe in his ‘No Boundaries Solution’ to the problem of the origin of the universe, but it’s abundantly clear that he understands stats. And as a man stricken with Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible illness, which has left him confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak and scarcely a muscle, Prof. Hawking clearly has first-hand experience of NHS care.

In short, don’t believe Hunt. Believe Hawking.

And yesterday one of the doctors weighed in, to request that a televised debate should be held between the two. See that story on Mike’s blog.

I’ve got no doubt that this will never happen. The schedules are full already, and the last thing the Tories will want is putting their man in a position where he’ll lose against a vastly more popular, far more respected and definitely more intelligent opponent.

Although they’re both authors. Hawking’s most famous work was A Brief History of Time, published back in the 1980s. It was a national bestseller, following very much in the footsteps of Carl Sagan’s epic Cosmos, another pop-sci blockbuster from a great science communicator, as well as a concerned scientist who attacked militarism, imperialism and man-made global warming.

As for Hunt, very few have read his book, which is why he can still repeat the lie that the Tories aren’t privatizing the NHS with a straight face, despite having advocated himself.

Such a debate would be so unequal in Hawking’s failure that I’ve no doubt that the Tories in charge of BBC News, the same people, who gave Corbyn such overtly biased coverage during the general election, are blanching at the very thought of it. Such a debate will never happen, just as the BBC will never own up, and confess that they, and particularly Laura Kuenssberg, are massively biased and everyone, who has complained about this painfully obvious fact is absolutely right.

Don’t Let Theresa May Privatise the NHS

June 8, 2017

This is the text of one of the self-published, table-top produced pamphlets I created a few years ago, and which are advertised on one of the other pages of this blog.

As you can see, it was written a year or so ago when David Cameron was in power. Nevertheless, it is still as valid now as it was then. Theresa May has not changed the Tory policy of privatising the NHS one whit.

So, please, read this article, and then vote for Jeremy Corbyn to preserve this most precious of British institutions.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS
David Sivier

Visiting our local health centre the other day, my parents, along with the other local people enrolled there, were handed a letter, explaining that due to funding cuts the health centre was having to cut back on services. It also advised its patients that if they wanted to raise their concerns about the restriction in their service they could contact:-

1. NHS England at FAO Linda Prosser, Director of Assurance and Delivery, NHS England South West (BNSSG), 4th floor Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS1 3NX
2. your local MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

Unfortunately, this is happening to the NHS and GPs’ services all over the country. It is no accident, and it is certainly not the fault of the many dedicated doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in the NHS.
It is the result of over 30 years of privatisation begun with Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher and her former Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, denied that they wanted to privatise the NHS. They merely stated that they wanted to include more private provision in the NHS. This is a lie. Released cabinet minutes showed that Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe wanted to privatise the NHS along with abolishing the rest of the welfare state. They were only prevented from doing so because the rest of the cabinet realised that this would be the death knell for the Tory party. And a fact-finding mission to the US to see how their private healthcare system worked by Patrick Jenkin showed that it was massively inefficient.

Nevertheless, the amount of private healthcare in the NHS was expanded, and state provision duly cut by successive governments. It was Maggie’s government in 1989 that ended the state support for care for the elderly in nursing homes. As a result, the families of those, who need this kind of care, are forced to fund it themselves, often through selling or remortgaging their homes because of the immense expense. It was also Maggie’s government that ended free eye tests, and picked a feud with the doctors that saw the majority of them leave the NHS.

This privatisation has continued under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and now David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt. Blair and Brown were deeply impressed with American private healthcare firms such as Kaiser Permanente, and wished to reform the NHS on their model. The ultimate intention was to replace the publicly owned and operated NHS with private healthcare funded by the state, but administered by private health insurance companies. As a result, NHS work has been given to private hospitals and clinics, and private healthcare companies have been given NHS hospitals to manage. Alan Milburn, Blair’s health secretary, wanted the NHS to become merely a kitemark – an advertising logo – on a system of private healthcare companies funded by the government.

This has been carried on the current Conservative government. And they have used the same tactics Margaret Thatcher did to force private healthcare on this nation. The dispute with the doctors over contracts a few years ago was part of this. It has left the majority of NHS GPs wishing to leave. Yet elements within the Conservative networks responsible for foisting these demands have seen this as an opportunity for forcing through further privatisation. Penny Dash, of the National Leadership Network, and one of those responsible for the NHS privatisation, has looked forward to the remaining GPs forming private healthcare companies. Furthermore, an report on the Care Commissioning Groups now in charge of arranging healthcare in the NHS by one of the private healthcare companies also suggested that they could form private healthcare companies, and float shares on the stockmarket.

Further privatisation has come with Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill of 2012. This exempts the state and the Secretary of State for Health from their statutory duty, as the ultimate leaders of the NHS, to provide state health care. It is carefully worded to disguise its true meaning, but that is what has been intended by the bill. Dr David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP, now part of the Lib Dems, has tabled amendments trying to reverse this despicable bill. He and many others have also written books on the privatisation of the NHS. One of the best of these is NHS SOS, by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, published by Oneworld.
This process cannot be allowed to continue, and I strongly urge everyone to resist the creeping privatisation of the NHS, Britain’s greatest public institution.

In the last government, there were 92 Conservative and Lib Dem ministers, who advocated the privatisation of the Health Service, and who stood personally to gain from it. They included Iain Duncan Smith, the minister for culling the poor, the sick and the old. Andrew Lansley, the health minister, openly stated he is in favour of privatising it. So has Nigel Farage, and the Unterkippergruppenfuhrer, Paul Nuttall.

Farage in particular follows the Tory policy going all the way back to Thatcher of promising to defend it while secretly plotting how to sell it off. Thatcher ‘s review into the NHS and its funding in the 1980s. so alarmed Labour’s Robin Cook, that he wrote a Fabian pamphlet, Life Begins at 40: In Defence of the NHS, attacking possible proposals to privatise the Health Service.

Previous reviews had given the NHS a clean bill of health. The extremely high quality of the NHS and its doctors was recognised by the heads of American healthcare firms: Dr Marvin Goldberg, chief executive of the AMI health group, told a parliamentary select committee that the Health Service Provides ‘outstanding health care and British NHS hospitals are at least as good as those in America while British doctors are better.’

The then Conservative MP for Newbury, Michael McNair-Wilson, also testified to the effectiveness of the NHS. He had suffered kidney failure. He had private health insurance, but it did not cover operations such as the one he needed because of the expense. He said ‘I have cost the NHS tens of thousands of pounds – much more than I could have afforded privately … Had my treatment depended on my ability to pay, I would not be alive today.’

Pre-NHS Britain: Some Areas Completely Without Hospitals

Cook’s pamphlet also graphically described the patchwork state of healthcare in Britain before the NHS. In London, where there were plenty of paying customers, there could be hospitals in neighbouring streets. Out in the poorer British provinces, there were hardly any, and many operations were carried out not by surgeons but by GPs. He cites Julian Tudor Hart’s book, A New Kind of Doctor, to show how bad this could be. Hart described how he joined one of those practices in Kettering. One patient was left under anaesthetic as the London specialist operating on him was called away to continue a stomach operation on a London patient, which the operating GP had been unable to complete.
Cook was deeply concerned that the Tories’ review would not be at all interested in improving quality, only in opening up the NHS to the market and privatisation.

Cook on Private Health Insurance

One of the issues he tackled in the pamphlet was the possibility of the introduction of private health insurance. This covers two pages and a column and a bit in the original pamphlet. This is what he wrote, though emphases and paragraph titles are mine.

The mechanism proposed to square the incompatibility of health care with the market is insurance. All market approaches to the NHS submitted to the Review stress the case for much wider private insurance and almost as frequently propose subsidies to boost it.

Insurance-Based Systems Encourage Expensive Treatment

The first thing to be said is that private insurance does not offer
to health care the alleged benefits of the discipline of the market place. At the point when the individual requires treatment he or she has already paid the premiums and has no incentive not to consume as expensive a treatment as can be reconciled with the policy. The position of the doctor is even more prejudiced in that he or she has every incentive to obtain as much as possible from the insurance company by recommending the most expensive treatment. Both patient and the doctor are in a conspiracy to make the consultation as costly as possible, which is a perverse outcome for a proposal frequently floated by those who claim to be concerned about cost control.

Insurance-Based Systems Encourage Unnecessary Surgery

The compulsion in an insurance-based system to maximise the rate of return is the simple explanation why intervention surgery is so much more often recommended in the United States. For example, the incidence of hysterectomy there is four times the British rate. This is unlikely to reflect higher morbidity rates but much more likely to reflect the greater willingness of doctors on a piece-work basis to recommend it, despite the operative risks and in the case of this particular operation the documented psychological trauma. I can guarantee that an expansion of private insurance will certainly meet the objective on increasing expenditure on health care, but it is not equally clear that the money will be spent effectively.

Insurance-Based Systems Require Expensive bureaucracy to Check Costs

One direct diversion of resources imposed by any insurance-based scheme is the necessity for accountants and clerks and lawyers to assess costs and process claims. The NHS is routinely accused of excessive bureaucracy, frequently I regret to say by the very people who work within it and are in a position to know it is not true. Expenditure in the NHS is lower as a proportion of budget than the health system of any other nation, lower as a proportion of turnover
than the private health sector within Britain, and come to that, lower than the management costs of just about any other major enterprise inside or outside the public sector. I am not myself sure that this is a feature of which we should be proud. ON the contrary it is evidence of a persistent undermanaging of the NHS, which is largely responsible for its failure to exploit new developments in communication, cost control and personnel relations. Nevertheless, there is no more pointless expansion of administrative costs than the dead-weight of those required to police and process and insurance-based system. These costs would be considerable.

Forty per cent of personal bankruptcies in the US are attributable to debts for medical care

Part of this additional cost burden is incurred in the task of hunting down bad debts, which does not contribute in any way to the provision of health care. Forty per cent of personal bankruptcies in the US are attributable to debts for medical care, a salutary reminder of the limitations set to insurance cover. These limitations have three dimensions.

Insurance Cover Excludes Chronic and Long-Term Sick, and the Elderly

First, insurance cover generally excludes those conditions which are chronic and therefore expensive or complicated and therefore expensive. Standard exclusions in British insurance policies are arthritis, renal dialysis, multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy. Most people do not require substantial medical care until after retirement. Most insurance cover excludes the very conditions for which they are then most likely to require treatment. Short of retirement, the most expensive health care required by the majority of the population is maternity care, which is also excluded by the majority of insurance policies.

Private Healthcare Limits Amount of Care due to Cost, not Need

Secondly, insurance cover is generally restricted by upper limits which are arbitrary in every sense other than financial. I recently met a psychiatric consultant to a private clinic, who was prepared to discuss candidly the ethical dilemmas of treating patients whose financial cover is fixed at five weeks of residential care, but whose response to treatment may indicate that a longer period of hospitalisation is desirable.

Private Health Care Geared to Selling to Healthy not Sick

Thirdly, insurance cover is further limited by exclusion of those most likely to claim on it. I am often struck at the sheer healthiness of the patients who illustrate the promotional literature of BUPA and PPP who appear in such pink of good cheer and fitness that it is difficult to figure out why they are in a hospital bed. These models are though in a sense most suitable for the purpose as the objective of insurance companies is to attract the healthy. They therefore claim the right to screen for the unhealthy and reject them from cover. This discriminatory approach was defended earlier this month by the managing director of WPA, Britain’s third biggest health insurer, on the principled grounds that it meant ‘essentially healthy people are not penalised by unhealthy people.’ This statement has the advantage of originality in that it perceives healthy people as the vulnerable group and proposes a market remedy that protects them from the inconvenient costs of the unhealthy.
Given this limited character of health insurance in Britain, the private sector is patently not in a position to substitute for the NHS and to be fair most directors of BUPA or PPP would be horrified at the notion of accepting the comprehensive, open-ended liabilities of the NHS. It is therefore perplexing that so much effort in and around the Review appears to be addressed to the issue of how the private sector may be expanded rather than how the public sector may be improved. Two major devices are being canvassed to boost private cover-tax relief on private cover or opt-out from public cover, or for all I know both of them together. Both would be a major mistake.

Tax Relief on Private Healthcare

Tax relief is open to the obvious objection that it targets help most on those who need it least – the healthy who are most likely to be accepted for private cover and the wealthy whose higher tax rates make relief most vulnerable. These are curious priorities for additional health expenditure.

Tax Relief Does Not Create Higher Spending on Health Care

Moreover, even in its own terms of stimulating higher spending on health, tax relief is likely to prove an ineffective mechanism. If for example the average premium is £200 pa the cost of tax relief for 6 million insured persons will be £300 million. The numbers under insurance need to increase by a third before the increased spending on premiums matches the cost of the subsidy and provides any net increase in health spending. Up to that point it will always produce a larger rise in health spending to increase the budget of the NHS by a sum equivalent to the cost of tax relief.

It is apparently being mooted that these objections could be circumvented by limiting the tax relief to the elderly. At this point the proposal moves from the perverse to the eccentric. This restriction targets help for private insurance on the very group for whom private cover is most inappropriate as their most likely health needs are the ones most likely to be excluded from cover. Only a moment’s reflection is required on the multiple ways in which we need to expand our health provision for the elderly to expose the hopeless irrelevance of tax relief as the solution for them.

Opt-Out Penalises those who Remain in the System

Opt-out is even more objectionable. The basic problem with opt-out is that it requires the payment towards the NHS of every individual to be expressed in a manner that gives him or her something to opt-out from. The principal attraction to Leon Brittan of his proposal for an NHS insurance contribution appeared to be precisely that it paved the way for opting out (A New Deal for Health Care, Conservative Political Centre,, 1988). Nor is this inconvenience confined to the need for a whole new element in the tax system. If one in ten of the population chose to opt out, it would be remaining nine out of ten who would have to prove they were not opted-out when they went along to seek treatment. With the new contributions comes a requirement to maintain a record of payment of them, and presumably a mechanism for credits to those not in work but who do not wish to be counted has having opted out of the NHS.

Private Healthcare Undermine NHS as Universal System

The more fundamental objection both these proposals is they explicitly threaten the NHS as universal health service catering for everyone. Moreover, they threaten its universality in the worst possible way, by encouraging those with higher incomes and lower health needs to get out, leaving behind the less affluent and the less fit. In this respect such an approach to the NHS would be a piece with the Government’s strategy of erosion towards the rest of the social services-housing, pensions, and now education, where the Government has encouraged those who could afford it to opt-out of public provision, leaving behind the poor who could be expected to put6 up with a poor service.

This is the reality of the private healthcare system which Cameron, Clegg, Farage and the rest of the Right wish to introduce. It is expensive, bureaucratic, does not stimulating further spending, and excludes those with the most acute and expensive medical need, especially the elderly.
And the Tories and their counterparts in UKIP and the Lib Dems know it. Why else would the Tories spend their time trying to deny what they’re doing? Why does Farage appear to be advocating retaining the NHS, while arguing for an insurance based system, like America? It’s because they know that private medicine does not provide the solutions they claim. It is only source of further enrichment to them and their corporate donors.

And since Cook wrote that pamphlet, more than 20 per cent of all Americans can no longer afford their healthcare. It’s why the firms are trying to get their feet under the table over here. Don’t let them. Ed Miliband and now Jeremy Corbyn have promised to reverse the privatisation of the NHS. Please support them.

Counterpunch on California Healthcare Workers Defending Immigrants and Demanding Single-Payer Healthcare

March 2, 2017

This sort of leads on from my last post, in which I blogged about Kyle Kulinski reporting on initiatives into introduce single-payer healthcare in California on his show, Secular Talk. There’s a fascinating piece in today’s Counterpunch by Cal Winslow reporting that the Californian trade union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have declared that they will resist attempts by the Trump regime to deport undocumented immigrant members of their organisation. Winslow writes

Thirteen thousand members of the California-based National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have taken the resistance movement a step further by declaring themselves a “sanctuary union.”

After a series of union-wide meetings, NUHW joined the growing network of sanctuary institutions last month by pledging to do everything within its power to “ensure the safety and security of all members of our community regardless of their immigration status.” This means the union “will not voluntarily cooperate with federal agents to enforce immigration laws.”

Immigrant labor is vital to patient care. American hospitals and nursing homes employ workers from around the globe, and membership reflects that diversity.

“Many of our members and their patients are undocumented immigrants, or have family members who are undocumented,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “We have a responsibility to protect and defend them.”

The union has also passed a resolution supporting Medicare For All in California, and are working with two Democrat state senators to achieve this.

Our union has been leading on this issue since the early 1990s and we reaffirmed our support for universal coverage earlier this year. We define real healthcare reform as Medicare for All — a single-payer system. In the 1990s there were initiatives on the California ballot toward accomplishing Medicare for All and other patient protections. We worked with scores of organizations to craft and advocate for those initiatives, but none became law.

Now, we have a new opportunity — even with all the things that are happening with the federal government and Obamacare. We have an opportunity in California to quickly achieve major healthcare reform for everyone in the state. State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) have introduced legislation that we strongly support. This is the way for California to get ahead of the curve and avoid the catastrophe of millions of people losing access to care. And if we can accomplish this in California, which has about 12 percent of the nation’s population, why not the whole country?

In the interview, Rosselli also talks about what his union is doing to protect immigrant workers from persecution by Trump, including using law firms to defend them in the courts. The union is also pressing to give people the same access to mental health care and the struggle they have had to achieve this with Kaiser Permanente. Equal access to mental healthcare is particularly under threat from Trump’s repeal of Obamacare.

Rosselli states that his union is part of the growing resistance to Trump, and they see their role as empowering and educating their workers about the issues confronting them.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/02/healthcare-workers-proclaim-sanctuary-union-push-for-medicare-for-all-in-california/

The reference to Kaiser Permanente is also relevant to the British debate about the involvement of private medicine, as the Blairites’ and the Tories’ break up of the NHS into Community Care Groups, and the use of referral centres to double check the cost efficiency of sending patients to particular hospitals, is based very much on the system of Managed Care set up by Kaiser Permanente. The morons and corporate whores in New Labour thought it was more efficient. It isn’t. It’s less so, but gives power to private healthcare providers and insurance companies. It also adds another layer of bureaucracy to the NHS while opening the door to the privatisation of much of its infrastructure. Which is what the Blairites intended.

Inside Out West on the Break-Up of the NHS Into Regions

January 19, 2017

Monday’s regional current affairs programme for the Bristol and Somerset area on BBC 1, Inside Out West, was on the dire condition of the NHS. It asked whether we now had a national health service, when healthcare provision could vary greatly between different regions. One of the people interviewed was a West Country man, who’d contracted hepatitis B. Unfortunately, the drugs he needed to treat his disease weren’t available locally under the NHS, and he’d been forced to spend £1,300 of his own money. However, treatment for the disease was free in the north east.

The show next interviewed a woman from that area, who’d had trouble obtaining treatment there for the disorder she had. I’ve forgotten now quite what she suffered from, but taken together, the two provided very strong evidence, backed with statistics, that the NHS was being broken up, and healthcare could be very much a ‘postcode lottery’, with patients in areas with poor healthcare provision having to pay for their treatment themselves.

At the end of the programme, the presenter gave the Department of Health’s view of the matter. Unsurprisingly, they claimed that more people than ever before were being treated, and came out with a statistic that claimed to show there were more cancer operations than ever. But they didn’t send anyone to be interviewed on the point.

This is the kind of spin the Tories have been coming out with ever since Thatcher got into power. We’re back to Theresa May claiming that there is no NHS crisis, and trying to shut up any healthcare professional that dared to say otherwise. The programme also interviewed several medical professionals, including doctors, who said that the NHS was very definitely being broken up and healthcare rationed. Most of them were anonymous, but one very famous medical man did appear on camera. This was the avuncular Dr. Robert Winston, the fertility specialist and science presenter, who stated very clearly that we now very much didn’t have an NHS providing universal coverage with the same standard throughout the country. He recognised that there had always been variations in the quality of healthcare in Britain, but now it had got much, much worse.

The fact that the Department of Health didn’t send any of their apparatchiks to argue the point shows that they’re very much aware their own position is open to serious questioning.

This situation is very much what the Tories and Blairites wanted. They wanted to break up the local health authorities and replace them with other administrative structures, in order to encourage competition between regions. Because competition is supposed to improve quality according to capitalist economic doctrine. Blair tried to roll back some of this, but simply replaced the Tory administrative structure with his own in order to encourage the regionalisation of the NHS and the privatisation of the health service, based on the pattern of American private healthcare providers like Kaiser Permanente. This is all described by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS. Cameron and May have taken this process further, passing laws that exempt local health authorities from having to provide a range of services free of charge, including ambulances. The legislation is convoluted, but it also means that the Minister for Health is no longer responsible for making sure people have access to state healthcare.

This is all very deliberate. And the effect is that increasingly more people are having to spend their money on healthcare that should be free to all, according to the founding intention of the NHS that it should be universal and free at the point of use.

Don’t believe the Tory rubbish that they are not privatising the NHS. They are.

Support the NHS. Kick out May and Jeremy Hunt.

Jimmy Dore: Free Trade Deals Are Designed to Hurt Working People

November 6, 2016

This is another piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, commenting and explaining a piece by Dean Baker of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. The article, ‘Inequality as Policy: Selective Trade Protectionism Favors High Earners’, critically examines the way free trade deals are designed to protect high earners’ jobs, while making those of the workers more insecure. Baker comments that while offshoring has harmed working class jobs in America, white collar jobs and intellectual property have been ‘robustly protected’. Baker states that while globalisation and the introduction of greater mechanisation are cited as the main causes of increased inequality over the past few decades, they’re viewed as the natural products of the way the economy operates, rather than as the results of deliberate policies.

Dore criticises the rightwing attitude towards the free market, which claims that this is a natural mechanism. He instead argues that markets are invented by rich people, and deliberately given a set of rules by the rich to protect themselves. You can have a policy that favours workers, and decreases inequality, just as you can have a policy that favours the wealthy and increases inequality. Baker explicitly states that the course of globalisation and the rewards of technological innovation are the results of policy. The greater inequality they have created is the result of conscious choices determining policy. Dore states that ‘you don’t have to sell out your own people’ as under the TPP to send job to poor people, who are in a worse position that American workers. Dore quotes Baker on the fact that Free Trade deals put American workers in competition with their counterparts elsewhere, who are paid much less, and whose products are then imported back into the US. In other words, American working class jobs are offshored, just as they are here in Britain through the adoption of similar policies by New Labour and the Tories. Dore considers how NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – resulted in the lifting of trade tariffs between America and Mexico, so that the big agricultural businesses went south of the border to use cheap Mexican labour, and shipped the fruit, Vegetables and other products back into the US. This only benefits the owners of industry. It hurts the workers, and it hurts the US economy, as the workers have less money to spend on the domestic economy. The result of this, which has been predicted, is to lower wages from manufacturing workers, and workers without a college education, as they are forced to crowd into the remaining areas of the economy.

Doctors’ jobs, by contrast, are protected. Foreign-trained doctors cannot practise in the US without them completing a residency programme first, and the numbers in this, as for foreign medical students, is consciously limited. Baker notes that this form of protectionism goes unchallenged despite the elimination of the barriers on trade and trade goods elsewhere in the economy. Doctors in the US thus earn $250,000 a year, twice as much as those in other wealthy countries. The cost to America is $100 billion a year in higher medical bills compared to those of other countries. Baker states that economists, including trade economists, have chosen to ignore the barriers that sustain high professional pay at enormous economic cost. Members of Dore’s crew make the point that American doctors aren’t paid more because they’re better than those elsewhere, but on the other hand, the doctors elsewhere in the developed world don’t have ‘a ton of debt’ from medical school. They also talk about the immense bureaucracy that ties up doctors through the insurance-driven American healthcare, which simply doesn’t exist under single-payer systems. The crew members talks about a doctor he knew in Chicago, who raged against the insurance companies because of the immense amount of time he had to spend with them ensuring the patient got treated.

Baker’s article also states that scientific and statistical analysis shows that economic elites and business interests have an impact on government economic policy. By contrast, average citizens and mass-based groups have little independent influence. In other words, government policy is written by the wealthy. The result of this has been to redistribute wealth to the rich over the past four decades. Other ways in which the market has been manipulated at the expense of the middle and lower classes is through macroeconomic policies that deliberately result in high unemployment. Baker recognises that tax policies designed to redistribute wealth are desirable, it should also be understood that economic policies have also been designed to increase inequality. He states that it is easier to have an economic which automatically reduces inequality, than one which produces inequality, which then has to be remedied through redistributive taxation.

Dore states that Trump is correct when he describes how American trade policy has destroyed workers’ jobs in America. However, is he is ‘100 per cent wrong’ when he wants to use the same managers and owners, who have designed these policies, somehow to produce a replacement, as these corporate industrialists have no loyalty to America, only their company. Dore’s crew states that America has suffered, as it’s become a service economy whose people can no longer afford the services, thanks to the gutting of the middle classes. And Dore himself says he gets tweets asking where he gets the information that half the country is poor – which it is. He then advises his interrogators to google the statement ‘half the country is poor’. This isn’t hidden, privileged information. It’s obvious, and deliberately designed.

All of this applies to Britain. The TPP being pushed by the Tories, and which will doubtless receive the backing of the Blairites in the Labour party, will also have the effect of offshoring more British jobs in our dwindling manufacturing and service industries. And thanks to the creeping privatisation of the NHS and the introduction of student fees by the Blairites, which were then raised by the Tories and Lib Dems, our student doctors are also saddled with massive medical fees. And our doctors and medical professionals are similarly being tied up with paperwork thanks to the deliberate introduction by New Labour of medical insurance companies, based on the system used by Kaiser Permanente in America, that also determine where and how patients are treated.

It’s disgusting, and the result of four decades of free market ideology beginning with Thatcher and Reagan, and now carried on by Obama and Shrillary in America, and the Blairites, Lib Dems, David Cameron and his successor, Theresa May, over here.

They have to be turfed out of parliament. All of them.

Vox Political on the Lies and Pro-Privatisation NHS Policies of Heidi Alexander

August 21, 2016

Mike also put up a couple of pieces yesterday critiquing and criticising a piece by Heidi Alexander in Friday’s Graun claiming that she resigned from her post as Shadow Health Secretary because Jeremy Corbyn was constantly undermining her and going behind her back. He does so by pointing out the inconsistencies between her tale, and what she actually said at the time.

For example, in her article she talks about how delighted she was to receive Corbyn’s invitation to take the post. Yet at the time, he was also in the Daily Mail saying she would not back Corbyn, because he was ‘unelectable’. She then claims that she left the Shadow Cabinet because it was ‘chaotic’ and ‘entirely dysfunctional’. But the real reason was that she was profoundly ideologically opposed, no matter what she says about interesting bright people committed to the NHS and giving Jeremy Hunt a run for his money.

John McDonnell was suspicious of her. She wasn’t doing enough to support the junior doctors, nor to combat Jeremy Hunt’s Seven Day NHS policy. So he set up an advisory panel to look into her work. She claimed that she supported this, but wasn’t informed about it. When she found out, she quit. Others involved in the affair have quite different versions of events. Mike makes the point that it’s not pleasant having someone else scrutinise your work, but we’ve all had it done to us. It’s part of business. You also have it in academia and in publishing. If publishers think a book you’ve written needs some alterations, they tell you. This includes tenured academics writing technical papers for academic publications. Mike states that it’s significant that the advisory panel hadn’t met before she left.

Mike also makes the point that she was among the first to resign following Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. He also points out that it’s hard to take her complaints seriously when she starts claiming that she wasn’t part of a coup, nor a plotter. She clearly was. As for her claim that Corbyn’s election would cause division, that’s exactly what she and the other Blairites have done. She states that when Labour members receive their ballot papers on Monday, they should carefully consider who would best lead the party. She now supports Owen Smith, yet Smudger had not put himself forward when she walked out.

Mike concludes that she’s simply a two-faced co-conspirator, who simply wanted Corbyn out so that she could further her own ambitions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/lets-stop-heidi-alexanders-latest-silliness-right-now/

Following Heidi Alexander’s self-pitying moan in the Groaniad, the NHA – the National Health Action party put up a piece, ‘Bye Bye Heidi’, welcoming her resignation.

They state that they were hoping she’d resign, as she fully supported Simon Steven’s 5 Year Forward Plan for the privatisation of the NHS. The article quotes Dr Bob Gill, one of the executives of the National Health Action party, who met her twice. She said to him I believe Stevens has the best interests of the NHS at heart’. He goes on ‘A former UnitedHealth president here to complete the transition to an American style insurance system has her confidence. That says it all.’ She did not appear on junior doctor picket lines, nor even wear a BMA badge. He hopes that now that Blairites like Alexander are leaving the cabinet, Corbyn can appoint people, who actually want to renationalise the NHS and fully understand that it doesn’t have to be the private industry Hunt and Stevens want.

He states that the hospital closure plan is ready to be implemented. Hospitals and Accident and Emergency services are ready to be closed to pay off NHS debts. Dr. Gill states that Labour ought to be shouting from the roof tops about this. And with the right MPs in charge, may be they will.

See Mike’s article at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/bye-bye-heidi-nhaspace/

I think the National Health Action party has more than a little experience of dealing with privatising Blairites. I’ve got a feeling it was begun, at least according to Private Eye, when Blair tried to close a popular local hospital in the Midlands – I think it might have been Warwickshire, but I can’t be sure – in favour of a PFI deal. Local people and medical professionals tried to get their local councillor or MP to challenge the policy. They didn’t get very far, so one of the doctors stood as the party’s candidate. He won, defeated the Labour incumbent, and Tony got very cross.

In fact, much of the legislation the Tories have taken over and built on as part of their plan to privatise the NHS was started by Tony Blair, who wanted to remodel the Health Service on the type of ‘managed care’ practised by Kaiser Permanente and other American medical insurance companies. Hence I’m not remotely surprised by her comments about Stevens, an officer from an American insurance company, being placed in charge of the NHS’ privatisation.

The Blairites are disgusting, and the support of the supposedly left-leaning Groaniad for them, and by extension the privatisation of the NHS, is equally revolting. The time’s long past they were banished from the Labour party and national politics for good.

In Defence of Left-Wing Anger

August 17, 2016

I’ve been meaning to get this off my chest for a little while now. One aspect of the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs that really annoys me is the hypocrisy that comes with their constant playing at being the victims of terrible abuse by Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn. Every so often they make pleas for political discourse and exchange to be made kinder or more genteel, while showing precious little of such qualities themselves. Jess Philips, according to the Groan, is having a panic room installed at her constituency office. But Mike’s already stated that she herself is an abrasive character online. This doesn’t justify any threats against her, but it doesn’t make her quite the innocent victim she claims either.

I’ve reblogged a video several times made by a couple in Angela Eagle’s constituency pointing out that Eagle’s story about the brick being thrown by Jeremy Corbyn supporters through her constituency window is a load of hogwash. It begins with footage of Eagle giving her story to the press. She concludes by saying that ‘We need a kinder, gentler style of politics’, before turning smartly on her heel and marching off, surrounded by her aids. This little piece has infuriated me ever since I’ve seen it. Firstly, it seems more than a little imperious. It’s bit of ‘I, the Great One, am speaking. Mortals listen!’ I also object to it on the grounds that it seems to be trying to deny the fact that her critics and opponents just might have entirely justifiable reasons for their anger. She seems to want to have the kind of exchange where everything is calm and mild. Now this is the kind of exchange I prefer. I honestly don’t like abuse and trolling. But on certain issues, if people do become abusive, it can be because the issue they’re discussing has all too real implications and consequences for them.

And many of the policies enacted by the Blairites have had terrible consequences for Britain as a nation, and specifically for the poor and working class. Let’s go through them.

Firstly, Blair took Britain into an illegal war in Iraq. The country had not threatened us, and at the time we invaded, Saddam Hussein was pretty much a joke to the rest of the Middle East. He was a thug, but he was contained. And the country over which he ruled was relatively prosperous, and with an advanced welfare state and educational system, at least for the region.

This has all changed. A quarter of a million Iraqis have died, and the country degenerated into a bloodbath of competing factions. Their economy has been wrecked, and ISIS and related death squads have terrorised its population. Our squaddies have been sent to fight and die, not to keep the world safe, but to produce even greater profits for the oil companies and American multinationals wishing to get their mitts on the country’s appetising state industries. Domestically it reinforced the view of many Muslims that the country was being targeted simply because it was Islamic. So it’s increased more racial and religious friction and intolerance over here. Is the Iraq invasion a good reason for people to get angry. Yes.

Then there’s the privatisation of the NHS. Blair, Brown and the others in New Labour took over the Private Finance Initiative and massively expanded it as official labour policy. They also began to split up the NHS into different commissioning groups, with the intention of creating competition. These commissioning groups were to provide healthcare not only from the NHS, but also from private healthcare companies. Hospitals and doctors surgeries have been taken over by private hospital chains. More than half of all hospital treatment is now commissioned from private healthcare providers. The ‘walk-in’ centres, or polyclinics, that were set up were also intended to be privately run. New Labour took as their care model a private American company, Kaiser Permanente. These policies have been taken over and further extended by the Tories after they won the 2010 election. Now it’s almost set to be totally privatised. Frankly, this makes me absolutely furious.

Let’s take the Work Capability Test. This was adopted by Blair and co. because they uncritically swallowed the Tory rubbish about most disabled people, the long term sick were malingerers and scroungers. They took over a tick-box questionnaire approach to examining people’s health pioneered by Unum, an American health insurance company that was guilty of some of the biggest insurance frauds prosecuted by the American state. The questionnaire used, and its underlying assumptions, are scientific nonsense. The policy is so notorious, that Atos decided to throw in the towel early, and were released from their contract a year before it was due to expire.

But the policy goes on, and it has had terrible real world consequences. Seriously ill people have been thrown off their benefits, and in some cases, have actually starved to death through lack of an income. Those with mental health problems, like anxiety and depression, have become worse, often much worse. As an example of how farcical this is, you consider some of the worst incidents, where people terminally ill in comas have been told they should find a job. Or when an amputee was asked when they expected their limbs to grow back. People are suffering and starving because of this. This isn’t a case of abstract policy, an interesting intellectual puzzle, which has no clear consequences for people’s lives. It makes a different over whether people are actually able to put food on their tables, or have a roof over their head, or can live out their lives with dignity.

It’s the same with the issue of benefit sanctions. Thanks to them, and the flexible employment policies Blair and Brown were so keen to employ, there are about 4.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’ in this country. There are cases where mothers are starving themselves, because it’s the only way they can afford to feed their children. And I can remember an incident I read on one of the other blogs, about how people in one town came to the aid of a young man, after he broke down in tears outside the Jobcentre, because they wouldn’t help him. As with the Work Capability Test, this is an issue that all-too real consequences for millions of people. And when nearly five million are going hungry in the fourth richest country in the world, you bet people have a right to be angry.

You can expand this to include the way the treatment of jobseekers has been deliberately made as humiliating and degrading as possible, with the imposition of workfare, capitalist forced labour brought to you by Sainsbury’s and the myriad other firms using it to cut down on labour costs. This was introduced as part of Margaret Thatcher’s return to ‘Victorian values’, which in this case meant the same values on which the workhouse system was established. The DHSS and the Benefits Agency always had an element of danger with them, because claimants naturally got angry with the state bureaucracy that could deny them money. People are left angry, despairing and furious with their treatment by the Jobcentre. But they also have a right to direct this rage at the politicians, who created the system.

And here New Labour have also shown themselves to be despicable. Cameron introduced workfare, but Ed Miliband ordered his cabinet not to oppose it, in case the Labour party should be seen to be soft on ‘benefit scroungers’ by the Tory press. Again, people have a very definite right to be angry.

I also think part of what makes me angry about Eagle’s behaviour, is her manner. It’s as if she seems to be completely insulated from the grim reality of the suffering New Labour have inflicted. She sounds to me like a bureaucrat or manager, completely obsessed with administering the policies that have been set, and getting irritated because somebody, somewhere, has had the temerity to object to it. I’ve remarked before that many of the Blairites seem to come from affluent, privileged, middle class backgrounds. My guess is that they genuinely don’t appreciate the harm they’re doing, because they’ve never experienced it themselves. They’ve only ever seen these policies from the vantage point of people, who’ve taken on the task of carrying them out. And they find it confusing and intensely infuriating when the masses don’t just accept what’s being done is for their good.

I am not saying that people have a right to abuse politicians or Jobcentre staff, or threaten them, let alone attack them or try to damage their property. I am very definitely against all of that. But people do have a right to be enraged at what has been done to them by the Thatcherites, both in the Tories and in New Labour.

And anger, as John Lydon sang, is an energy.

The gaol should now be to use this anger, this resentment against an unfair and deliberately cruel and exploitative system, to argue, research, expose and organise and keep the pressure on relentlessly to overturn these policies.

NHS Privatisation: Cuts to My Local Health Centre

June 19, 2016

NHS SOS pic

Visiting our local health centre the other day, my parents, along with the other local people enrolled there, were handed a letter, explaining that due to funding cuts the health centre was having to cut back on services. It also advised its patients that if they wanted to raise their concerns about the restriction in their service they could contact:-

1. NHS England at FAO Linda Prosser, Director of Assurance and Delivery, NHS England South West (BNSSG), 4th floor Plaza, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS1 3NX
2. your local MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
3. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, via his website http://www.jeremyhunt.org

Unfortunately, this is happening to the NHS and GPs’ services all the country. It is no accident, and it is certainly not the fault of the many dedicated doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in the NHS.

It is the result of over 30 years of privatisation begun with Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher and her former Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, denied that they wanted to privatise the NHS. They merely stated that they wanted to include more private provision in the NHS. This is a lie. Released cabinet minutes showed that Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe wanted to privatise the NHS along with abolishing the rest of the welfare state. They were only prevented from doing so because the rest of the cabinet realised that this would be the death knell for the Tory party. And a fact-finding mission to the US to see how their private healthcare system worked by Patrick Jenkin showed that it was massively inefficient.

Nevertheless, the amount of private healthcare in the NHS was expanded, and state provision duly cut by successive governments. It was Maggie’s government in 1989 that ended the state support for care for the elderly in nursing homes. As a result, the families of those, who need this kind of care, are forced to fund it themselves, often through selling or remortgaging their homes because of the immense expense. It was also Maggie’s government that ended free eye tests, and picked a feud with the doctors that saw the majority of them leave the NHS.

This privatisation has continued under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and now David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt. Blair and Brown were deeply impressed with American private healthcare firms such as Kaiser Permanente, and wished to reform the NHS on their model. The ultimate intention was to replace the publicly owned and operated NHS with private healthcare funded by the state, but administered by private health insurance companies. As a result, NHS work has been given to private hospitals and clinics, and private healthcare companies have been given NHS hospitals to manage. Alan Milburn, Blair’s health secretary, wanted the NHS to become merely a kitemark – an advertising logo – on a system of private healthcare companies funded by the government.

This has been carried on the current Conservative government. And they have used the same tactics Margaret Thatcher did to force private healthcare on this nation. The dispute with the doctors over contracts a few years ago was part of this. It has left the majority of NHS GPs wishing to leave. Yet elements within the Conservative networks responsible for foisting these demands have seen this as an opportunity for forcing through further privatisation. Penny Dash, of the National Leadership Network, and one of those responsible for the NHS privatisation, has looked forward to the remaining GPs forming private healthcare companies. Furthermore, an report on the Care Commissioning Groups now in charge of arranging healthcare in the NHS by one of the private healthcare companies also suggested that they could form private healthcare companies, and float shares on the stockmarket.

Further privatisation has come with Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill of 2012. This exempts the state and the Secretary of State for Health from their statutory duty, as the ultimate leaders of the NHS, to provide state health care. It is carefully worded to disguise its true meaning, but that is what has been intended by the bill. Dr David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP, now part of the Lib Dems, has tabled amendments trying to reverse this despicable bill. He and many others have also written books on the privatisation of the NHS. One of the best of these is NHS SOS, by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, published by Oneworld.

This process cannot be allowed to continue, and I strongly urge everyone to resist the creeping privatisation of the NHS, Britain’s greatest public institution.

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.