Posts Tagged ‘Private Healthcare Providers’

Vote for Corbyn to Stop the Work Capability Tests

June 8, 2017

This is the text of another of my table-top pamphlets, this time against the notorious Work Capability Tests. These were also introduced by New Labour at the behest of Unum and other private healthcare providers.

These are not objective tests to assess who is well enough to support themselves. They are simply a callous, bureaucratic mechanism for throwing people with disability off the benefits they need to support themselves. These have included severely disabled people, including terminal cancer patients in comas!

This iniquitous system has been retained and expanded by the Tories – David Cameron and his Lib Dem lackey, Nick Clegg, and now Theresa May.

It is killing people. As I’ve mentioned far too many times before, about 600 + people have died in misery and despair after having their benefit withdrawn due to these tests. Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and DPAC have put together lists and videos putting names to faces, to show the human reality of these statistics – whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were killed thanks to the Thatcherite insistence of cutting down on welfare.

The number of people, who have died after having been assessed as ‘fit for work’ is well above ten thousand, though the true figure may never be known. Mike and the other disability activists, who tried to get the figures were blocked by IDS and the DWP at every turn when they tried to get them.

Jeremy Corbyn has also promised to end workfare.

So vote for him. Don’t let the Tories kill more disabled people under the pretence of saving money.

Stop the Work Capability Test –
Before More People Die

by David Sivier

One of the very worst policies introduced by various governments as part of their campaigns to dismantle the welfare state over the past decade has been the Work Capability Test. This was introduced by New Labour in October 2008 along with a new benefit for the disabled and long-term sick, the Employment Support Allowance, which replaced Incapacity Benefit. The Work Capability Test is intended to show if the person claiming benefit really cannot work. It consists of questionnaire, in which boxes are to be ticked in answer to particular questions about the claimant’s health and disability. 2Ten of these tests were on the claimant’s physical health, and another ten are on their ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual’ fitness. There may also be a brief physical examination. The tests are performed by medical doctors working on behalf of a government outsourcing company. This was given to the French company, Atos, but the company was forced to terminate its contract a year early in 2014 following public anger at the system’s incompetence and maladministration. The contract was then given to an American company, Maximus. The tests may be repeated as often as the JobCentre Plus decides. If the disabled person scores low in the tests, they are judged fit for work. They lose their ESA and are told to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The tests are based on a monograph, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Beneft, by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward, of 2005 and a succeeding work, Is Work Good for Your Health and Wellbeing? By Gordon Waddell and Kim Burton. They were also strongly influenced by a 2001 New Labour conference, in which Aylward was a contributor, Malingering and Illness Deception. These led in turn to the publication of a Green Paper in 2006, A New Deal for Welfare: empowering people to work – an independent assessment of the arguments for the proposed Incapacity Benefit reform. Both Waddell and Aylward were professors at the Unum Provident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was funded by the American insurance giant from 2004-9. The Work Capability Test uses a form of Bio-Psychosocial model of assessment, developed in America by Unum Provident. This model of assessment is considered to have been devised by George Engel in 1977. In 2006 a paper produced by Professor Christopher Butler and his colleagues attacked the model as ‘wanting’ and inadequate. Waddell and Aylward’s 2006 paper has also been attacked and discredited by Emeritus Professor Alison Ravetz.

Unum, and pseudo-medical testing actually became part of the disability benefits system twelve years or so prior to the Waddell and Aylward’s paper, in 1993, when the-then Conservative Health Secretary, Peter Lilley, introduced tougher testing designed to evaluate whether claimants were totally incapable of work. They had previously been awarded benefit if they were unable to do their job. Lilley considered that this approach was to open to sentimental interference by doctors, and so set up an ‘Incapacity benefit medical valuation group’, whose members included Dr John Le Cascio, the second vice-president of Unum Corporation. Lo Cascio had recently been seconded to its British branch, Unum Ltd, based in Dorking in Surrey. In 1994 Lo Cascio was appointed to train the British doctors charged with carrying out the tests by the Benefits Agency Medical Services. New Labour claimed that the purpose of the Work Capability Tests has been ‘to get people back into work’. This was always a misleading claim. New Labour had a ten-year plan to remove one million people from the 2.8 million receiving disability benefits. Their Secretary of State for Health declared ‘We know that being in work can be good for your wellbeing’, echoing the title of the paper by Waddell and Burton. 13 Years before that, Lilley introduced the tests with the aim of cutting £2 billion from the benefits bill.

And Unum itself regarded the benefit cuts as a great commercial opportunity. In their report in 1994, Chairman Ward E. Graffam was enthusiastic about ‘exciting developments in Britain’, saying ‘the impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’

Atos immediately decided that three-quarters of those in receipt of benefit were fit for work.16 Between the introduction of the tests in October 2008 and February 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions made over 1.36 million decisions on whether to award ESA following the administration of the tests on claimants. It declared 794,000 sick and disabled people ‘fit for work’. From the very beginning, the tests were criticised as being vastly inaccurate, and the treatment of claimants under it as cruel and degrading. ‘We Are
Spartacus’, a network of disability researchers and campaigners, denounced the way claimants were ‘wrongly assessed, humiliated and badly treated’. In response to repeated requests by disability campaigners, the DWP finally released the figures for the number of people dying over 11 months in 2011 while in receipt of ESA. 10,600 people in total had died. Of these, 1,300 had died after being taken off benefit following the decision that they were ‘fit to work’. Some of the people, who have died, committed suicide in despair at having their income terminated. One of these was a 47 year old man, who took a drug overdose. Others experienced a deterioration in their mental health due to the stress of assessment. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 600,000 appeals. This constitutes a third of all assessments, and in 2012-13 there were 465,000 appeals, with a success rate of 39 per cent. In some areas, lawyers had a success rate of over 80 per cent overturning decision by Atos against the claimant receiving benefits. 60 per cent of those, who had successfully appealed had scored zero. That is, Atos had declared them entirely fit for work. In 2013, however, the Conservative government took the decision to end legal aid for claims for welfare payment, which meant that fewer people would be able to afford to take the government to court.

In America, Unum Provident was fined $31.7 million in a class action lawsuit in California in 2003 for running ‘disability denial factories’. Two years later in 2005, John Garamendi, the California Department Insurance Commissioner, fined the company $15 million, declaring ‘Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years’. The insurance commissioners of 48 American states had made a settlement with the company by 2006 that required it to review 200,000 claims and pay a $15 million fine. In 2008 the American Association of Justice declared that the company was the second most discredited insurance provider in America.

Despite public anger at Atos’ conduct of the Work Capability Test for ESA, the government in 2012 awarded the company another contract, worth over £400 million, for assessing whether disabled people were suitable for the Personal Independence Payment that was scheduled to replace the Disability Living Allowance in 2013. The Disability Living Allowance provided the handicapped with up to £130 per week to help them look after themselves. This was mostly awarded to help people cook, wash, and assist those with mobility problems. In the three years from April 2013 to 2016, this is to be phased out and replaced with the PIP, which is designed to get people back into work. The government was determined to cut spending on the PIP by twenty per cent during these three years, after the number claiming DLA rose by 30 per cent to 3.2 million people between 2002 and 2011. This was expected to throw 500,000 people off disability benefit.

As with their administration of the ESA fitness to work tests, Atos has proved to be less than efficient in its administration of the PIP. Those applying for the benefit may have to wait months before being notified that they are entitled. The cancer charity, MacMillan Cancer Support, stated that there were serious delays in the approval of payments. As well as leaving the terminally ill without this benefit, it also meant that they were unable to claim other vital benefits with which PIP was linked. As a result, some were forced in their desperation to take out loans from payday loan companies, which have a truly exorbitant interest rate. The number of problems with ESA dealt with by Citizens Advice rose by 54 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the bureaux dealt with 450,000 of them.

Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, Mind, criticised the tests for failing to consider the effects of mental health on people’s ability to work. In an interview with the Guardian in 2012, he said

The system is based on assumptions that claimants need to be forced back to work, rather than supported on their own terms, and that those not well enough to go back to work are somehow perceived as scroungers. These attitudes only serve to further damage individuals’ mental health and increase the time until they may be ready to return to work.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, another disability charity, stated that the tests ‘should be more than an exercise in getting people of benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.’ The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee condemned the tests, stating that the system was so flawed it needed to be completely overhauled.

Guy Standing in his A Precariat Charter states that governments have been able to cut benefits for the disabled far more than for other groups, because they are a minority and so there is likely to be fewer objections to their treatment and lost votes. He also recommends that any firm hired by the government to provide services for the disabled should be bound by three commitments. The first should be to the disabled themselves; the second should be to the government; and the third should be to the whole of society, as the rest of us could be next. The employment contract awarded to such outsourcing firms should include penalty clauses requiring them to compensate the disabled claimant directly when they do not award them the correct benefits. This compensation should be much more than the benefits the disabled person did not receive. They should also be penalised for their mistakes. This would be a start, but it is not enough. The problem lies not with the companies administering the tests, but with the whole system of tests itself. The cause of the problem is attitude of successive governments, from John Major’s Conservatives, through Blair and Brown’s New Labour and then the Conservative-led governments of David Cameron, that the disabled should automatically have their benefits reduced, regardless of the poverty and hardship involved. The goal should be to provide benefits to support the poor and disabled, rather than cuts intended to reduce the tax burden for the rich. The Work Capability Test and the poverty and stress it inflicts should be stopped. Now.

The ‘I’: People Want Increased Taxes, Trust Labour More than Tories on NHS

May 31, 2017

It’s no wonder that the biased BBC was crowing about its supposed victory on Woman’s Hour yesterday, when Jeremy Corbyn forgot the figures for Labour’s promise on free childcare. A YouGov poll for the Times concluded that the gap between Labour and the Tories in the polls was only 5 per cent, and that Labour were set to take eight Tory seats, with Tories unable to take any from Labour.

Hence John Pienaar’s excited yelling that Labour needed to convince more people in the marginals, and the Beeb’s footage of two Midlands ladies praising Theresa May to the rafters. They had to. May’s popularity is plummeting, and in some areas the Tories are actually way behind Labour.

Yesterday’s I carried a story by Dominic Kirby, ‘Voters Back Tax Rise to Fund Improved NHS’, which showed that not only were the people of this great nation prepared to put up with more taxes for the health service, but also that Labour were trusted more than the Tories with it. The article read:

More than half of people in every region of Britain say they believe NHS services have worsened over the past three years, according to a survey for I.

The figure rose to 67.2 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and fell as low as 54 per cent in Scotland, according to a poll of more than 8,300 people in partnership with Google Surveys.

It also suggested most people in all regions felt the private sector should have no role in running the NHS, with the highest opposition in the North-east, at 74.3 per cent.

There was also widespread support for the Lib Dem policy of putting an extra penny in thre pound in income tax to raise an estimated £6bn a year for the NHS.

The strongest support was in the south-west of England, where 81.5 per cent of respondents said they would be prepared to pay the extra.

But even in the region with the lowest support – the south-east of England, 72.l per cent said they would pay.

Labour is the most trusted party when it comes to the NHS in every region apart from Scotland, the survey says. As many as 67.9 per cent gave the party their backing over health in some parts of the north.

Even in the English region where Labour did worst – the south-east – it was still the party most trusted on the NHS, ahead of the Conservatives.

English voters were offered a choice of four parties – the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – and asked which one they trusted most with the future of the NHS.

In the north-west, some 67.9 per cent went with Labour, compared with 21 per cent for the Conservatives, 6 per cent for the Lib Dems and 5.1 per cent for the Greens.

In the north-east, Labour was the choice of 63.7 per cent and the Tories 25.5 per cent, while in Yorkshire and the Humber the split was 63.3 per cent Labour and 23.6 per cent Conservative.

The highest levels of support for the Tories were found in the south-east and east of England.

In the south-east, 33.3 per cent said they trusted the Tories most with the future of the NHS – but 48 per cent said they trust Labour most.

In the east, 35.1 per cent went for the Conservatives, while 48.2 per cent for Labour.

It was a different story in Scotland, where voters were asked to choose between the SNP, the Conservatives, labour and the Liberal Democrats. There, 42.9 per cent said they trusted the SNP most with the health service, while 32.4 per cent went for Labour, 19.;5 per cent the Conservatives, and 5.2 per cent the Lib Dems.

So, no wonder that the I paper is reporting that May is falling back on personal attacks on Corbyn as her lead in the polls collapses. It also explains perfectly why she’s now fallen back on plugging herself as the best person for Brexit, and why one of the Tory papers today is claiming on its front page that Labour has a secret plan to increase migration.

The fear amongst May and the Tories is so great, you can practically smell it.

Labour Promises £37 Billion More for NHS While Hunt Peddles Away from Media

May 16, 2017

The current crisis hitting the NHS isn’t an accident. The Tories – and Blairites – have had a decades-long policy of privatising the NHS and starving it off funds going back to the days of the molten Tory tin goddess herself, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS as part of her campaign to destroy the welfare state as a whole. That she couldn’t was down to two things – there was a massive cabinet revolt, as they realised it would be, er ‘highly courageous’ in the words of Sir Humphrey in ‘Yes, Minister’. In other words, they knew it would cost them the next election. Also, her private secretary Patrick Jenkin actually visited America and found that there healthcare system is rubbish, with 55 million people unable to afford their health insurance before Obamacare, and about 30,000 folks dying every year due to lack of medical care.

But this didn’t stop her or them. She wanted to engineer a situation where 25 per cent of Brits would have private medical insurance. And over the next three decades and more the Tories and the Blairites opened up more of the NHS to private industry through the Private Finance Initiative and other schemes whereby private hospitals and clinics are now contracting in to provide services for the NHS, while the NHS is being privatised, starved of funds and broken up.

Even as far back as the 1970s Britain actually gave less funding to its health service than the other countries in what is now the EU. And that funding has been further slashed as part of a spurious programme of cutting the deficit by the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he intends to reverse this. He will find an extra £37 billion for the NHS, including £10 billion to correct the hardware problems, which left our health service vulnerable to hackers last weekend.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/15/a-tale-of-two-jeremys-corbyn-offers-37bn-to-help-the-nhs-hunt-runs-away/

So where does this leave the Tories?

Well, as the TV host Victoria Derbyshire tweeted, they had seventy years to solve the problems of the NHS, but didn’t.

One of the journos at the Beeb, Jon Ironmonger, doorstepped Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, for his comments on Labour’s pledge. The result is very telling. Hunt kept his mouth firmly shut, and peddled off as fast as he could into the London traffic.

Like May, Hunt depends on first being programmed by the spin doctors at Tory Central Office. Without Linton Crosby to type the soundbites into ZX 81 1 Kilobyte powerhouse that is his brain – for those of you, who remember ’80s home computers – Hunt and the rest of them have nothing to say. And so they disappear as fast as they can into the smoke and petrol fumes.

Tories Manufacture Dispute with GPs to Destroy NHS. Again.

January 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political today posted a truly chilling story for everyone who genuinely believes in and supports the NHS. He quotes a former deputy chair of the British Medical Association, Dr. Kailash Chand, as saying that doctors are now so sick and tired of being scapegoated by May and her lickspittle puppet, Jeremy Hunt, that they are considering disaffiliating from the NHS. Doctors are rightly annoyed at being blamed by the Tories for the crisis caused by the underfunding of the NHS. Mike’s article also reports that they are also angered by May’s demands that they run a service from 8 am in the morning to 8 pm at night, seven days a week. If they do not do so, they will losing their funding. Unless they say that there is no demand for it from their patients.

Dr. Chand has said about the attacks on GPs for the gross failure of the Tories

“I think making this particular statement at this minute is essentially scapegoating. [May] has got to find something, she can’t blame [the health secretary] Jeremy Hunt for this, or her own government.

“She’s got to find a scapegoat and GPs are probably the easiest scapegoat in this way because your rival papers, like the Daily Mail, all the time are giving the public the view that GPs don’t work and GPs are working only nine-to-five, which is nonsense.”

Mike in his article makes the point that this is exactly what Theresa May wants and will bring the prospect of a private, for-profit health system like that in America closer. He makes the excellent point that tyrants like May should not be given what they want, and recommends that doctors should set up charities as a way of blocking her plans to foist this on the economy. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it could be an effective stop-gap until a Labour government is elected that will renationalise the NHS.

His article ends

Theresa and her Tories must be defeated here. Much more depends on it than simply the NHS in England (and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, whose funding is dependent on the English service receiving cash).

Let’s have a contingency plan ready, for the moment the worst prime minister in UK history does the worst thing she possibly can. Because I think she will.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/if-gps-disaffiliate-from-the-nhs-how-about-forming-charities-to-thwart-theresa-may/

Right-wing governments, including that of Tony Blair, have wanted to privatise the NHS for a very long time now. Thatcher wanted to do so in the 1980s, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt, and by finding out just how bad the American system. Nevertheless, she still wanted 25 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance. And she also tried again to moot its privatisation a few years later.

John Major introduced the PFI scheme specifically so privatise enterprise could take over the construction and management of hospitals. It had nothing to do with efficiency or savings, and everything to do with allowing his paymasters in private health the opportunity to profit from this part of the state economy. And after his government was replaced by New Labour, Blair introduced a series of reforms which were further intended to privatise the NHS. Apart from granting more contracts to private firms and hospitals, he also wanted to replace GPs’ surgeries with polyclinics or walk-in centres, which were also supposed to be privately run. He also set up Community Care Groups, of local GPs, to manage doctors’ surgeries in the area. These were intended to have the power to arrange treatment from private healthcare providers. They are also able to opt out of the NHS, and raise money as private healthcare firms, if they so choose.

Now May and Hunt are deliberately stirring up a dispute with doctors, so that many will leave the Service altogether. Many parts of the country, including my own in south Bristol, have trouble finding staff thanks to the contrived departure of many medical professionals due to Tory policies. This is another attempt to force even more out.

This is not something that May’s just dreamed up out of the blue either. She’s taken a leaf from that other great Tory leader, Maggie Thatcher. I can remember thirty years ago when Thatcher contrived a dispute with the dentists, which resulted in them leaving the NHS. She refused to award them a rise in funding, which the dentists claimed was needed because of their use of expensive equipment.

As a result, many left the NHS, so that today those unable to pay privately may have great difficulty finding a dentist willing to treat NHS patients.

May is doing the same now with doctors.

She has to be stopped, before we go back to the conditions of horrifically poor health provision for everyone except the very rich before the establishment of the NHS under Nye Bevan.

Vox Political: Hospitals Overstretched, but Chief Nursing Officer Wants Beds Cut

January 7, 2017

Yesterday Mike also put up a story commenting on a tweet by Clive Peedell, of the NHS Action Party. Peedell was justifiably outraged by the attitude of the Chief Nursing Officer, Janet M. Cummings. At a time when the NHS is seriously overstretched because of a shortage of beds, Cummings decided that the number of Acute beds should be cut. Peedell stated that she should resign. Mike concurs, but asks if anyone knows the procedure for how to make the public’s feelings known about this.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/06/hospitals-warn-over-patient-numbers-while-nursing-officer-wants-bed-numbers-cut-contradiction/

Unfortunately, Cummings isn’t the only senior official within the NHS, who seems determined to destroy public healthcare. Back when Blair was P.M., the head of NHS strategy was Dr Penny Dash, who was as keen as Blair was to privatise the health service. In 2002 she wrote an article in the Graun about how the government should encourage consultants, surgeons

and indeed other groups of doctors, to form their own companies (or join existing private health providers) to sell their services back to the NHS.

She continued

Freed from the stifling grip of the NHS, these would be able to perform procedures in either the NHS or private hospitals, and would be able to form businesses of their own, raise capital, invest in new technology, or join up with the suppliers of such, and then would be able to offer a ‘full service solution’ to failing NHS hospitals. This, she claimed, could be the development that Blair and Milburn really wanted. (See Stewart Player, ‘Ready for Market’, in Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, NHS-SOS, pp. 46-7). You won’t be surprised to learn that after leaving the Department of Health, Dash went off to work for McKinsey, the American private insurance giant. She played a leading role in producing the two ‘Darzi’ reports recommending limiting NHS provision in London, and the system of privately run polyclinics. (p. 60).

And then in 2006, there was the establishment of the National Leadership Network of 150 health policy makers, management consultants, NHS Trust and private healthcare executives, as well as medical professionals, leaders and regulators, to ‘provide collective leadership for the next phase of transformation, advise ministers on developing policies and promote shared values and behaviours.’ And one of the first documents they produced, recommending the introduction of privatised services shared between the NHS and private sector, was Strengthening Local Services: The Future of the Acute Hospital. It seems to me that Cummings is a product, one way or another, of that network.

Mike wrote an article earlier this week stating very clearly that there was a toxic culture at the top of the NHS. It started with Blair, and its grown and expanded with Cameron, May and the Conservatives, aided by the Lib Dems. The only person, who has shown they genuinely want to roll back the privatisation of the NHS to Jeremy Corbyn.

He needs our support.

And the others need to be kicked out.

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.

Vox Political: Jeremy Corbyn Pledges to Re-Nationalise the NHS and Buy Out PFI Schemes

August 25, 2016

On Tuesday, Mike put up a piece reporting that yesterday Jeremy Corbyn and his close ally, Diane Abbott, were due to announce their policies towards the NHS if Corbyn got elected. He would not only reverse the Tory cuts, but would renationalise the NHS to make it fully publicly funded, and fully publicly provided. They would also not only not sign any more PFI deals, but would establish a public fund to buy struggling hospitals out of their PFI deals. And he was going to support fully a private members bill by the MP, Margaret Greenwood, strengthening the responsibilities of the Health Secretary, ending the NHS internal market and restoring nurses bursaries.

Mike quotes him as saying:

“Health, health financing and health inequality is a matter of paramount national importance. The Labour government I lead will ensure that money goes to patients not contractors, and that our NHS is given the resources to provide a top quality service as part of a program to rebuild and transform Britain so that no-one and no community is left behind.”

If you only need one reason to vote for Corbyn, this is it. Over three decades of Thatcherite administrations have gradually privatised the NHS, beginning with Thatcher’s own administration in 1979. John Major introduced the PFI deals, under which hospitals have been built in partnership with private industry, which then runs them on the behalf of the NHS, on the recommendation of Peter ‘I’ve got a little list’ Lilley, who wanted to open up the Health Service to private investment. The Tories also introduced the internal market, which actually vastly increased the Health Service’s bureaucracy and inefficiency. New Labour then pushed the process forwards by introducing privately funded and operated clinics, and splitting the NHS into ‘Care Commissioning Groups’, which could raise money privately if they so wished. Under New Labour and the Tories, private contractors were introduced to perform NHS medical services. Finally, Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act of 2012 removed the statutory responsibility of the Health Secretary to provide state medical care.

This is what the supporters of the NHS, such as Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, the authors of NHS: SOS, have been demanding. These reforms have left the NHS struggling under a mountain of debt. This means that any new hospitals that are built under the PFI scheme are smaller and more expensive than those constructed under conventional public funding. And the debt means that the Tories have an excuse for closing further NHS hospitals, before finally rolling out their pretext for the complete privatisation of the NHS.

Whatever else Corbyn does, if he restores the NHS to the principles under which it was founded, as a publicly funded, publicly operated service offering universal treatment free at the point of use, this alone will justify his election to office.

Of course, it’s going to be a threat to big business, which wants a slice of the lucrative business opportunities now monopolised by the state, albeit in an increasingly diminishing field. So expect to hear more demonization of him and his supporters by the media and the Blairites in the coming weeks.

Another Pamphlet Written against the Privatisation of the NHS

August 10, 2016

Anti-Workfare Pamphlet Pic

I’ve also added another pamphlet I’ve written against the privatisation of the NHS to the ‘Pamphlets and Literature’ page on this website. I wrote it a little while ago, and am hoping to get it professionally printed. It’s entitled Privatisation: Killing the NHS, and is A5 format, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS than the other, Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you want a copy of this, or any of the other pamphlets I’ve written, just head over to the ‘Literature and Pamphlets’ page, and get in touch using the contact form.

The Tory Privatisation of the NHS: List of NHS Services for Which Fees May Be Charged

June 7, 2016

NHS SOS pic

I’ve been reading the book, NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, with growing fury. I bought it a week ago so I could learn a bit more about the Tories and Lib Dem’s privatisation of the National Health Service. The book provides a very detailed description of this process, and the very limited opposition Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care bill received as it passed through the Commons. One of those, who actually stood by the NHS and fought it was David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP. And one of those, who added their crucial support to the bill, was his Lib Dem colleague, Shirley Williams.

As it stands, the bill effectively dissolves the NHS as a single administrative unit responsible for the entire country. The Secretary of State is no longer responsible for the Health Service as a whole, but merely in charge of commissioning. Vast areas of the NHS have been given over to private healthcare companies, and funding by private health insurers. The book also details how what remains of the state-run parts of the NHS are being deliberately starved of cash, which is now being funnelled to private healthcare providers.

And the government has also repealed the statutory duty of the NHS to provide a universal health service free of charge. Instead, the law has been amended so that fees may be charged for the following services:

* Services and facilities for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding.
* Services for both younger and older children.
* services for the prevention of illness.
* Care of persons suffering from illness and their after-care.
* Ambulance services.
* Services for people with mental illness.
* Dental public health services.
* Sexual health services.
(See the above book, p. 194).

Which looks like just about every part of health care in this country.

This is part of a long campaign, going right back to Margaret Thatcher’s review of the Health Service and plans for the dismantlement of the welfare state in the 1980s.

It’s disgusting. And we must fight against it with every fibre of our beings.