Posts Tagged ‘Private Healthcare Providers’

Boris Johnson’s Speech Promoting NHS Privatisation

December 8, 2019

Last Wednesday Mike wrote a piece demolishing the Tories’ claim that more people trusted them with the NHS than Jeremy Corbyn. It showed how the Tories are privatising the Health Service, and included a video from Red Roar of a 2002 speech by the boorish profiteer masquerading as our Prime Minister. In it, Johnson talks about the number of people taking out private health insurance, and demanded an end to the ‘monolithic, monopolistic’ NHS. The post containing the video is at https://www.theredroar.com/2019/12/exclusive-clip-boris-johnson-called-for-break-up-of-monolithic-monopolistic-nhs/

And see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/04/who-do-you-trust-with-the-nhs-boris-privatisation-johnson-or-jeremy-investment-corbyn/

Johnson was annoyed because Gordon Brown, the-then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had closed a tax loophole for people with private health insurance. As a result, 200,000 people had closed their policies. He then waffled on about how he supported the inclusion of private healthcare into public healthcare policy because he’d seen how much better those nations that included it were than the NHS, and not just because they were generally better funded.

Now let’s deal with this tripe. The NHS has always been underfunded ever since its inception. When it was set up the Labour government did not build any new hospitals. That had to wait. Nevertheless, the NHS was an immediate improvement of what came before it. Previously millions of Brits had only been able to afford healthcare through private insurance. There was state health insurance, but only a for a limited number of workers. There also were charity hospitals, but these varied immensely in quality. The very poorest could expect to be treated at municipal infirmaries, but the treatment there could also be extremely poor. Millions of Brits therefore had no proper health coverage, and so suffered from poor health and inadequate treatment.

Britain has since lagged behind many other countries in the Developed World in the amount of state funding given to its health service, and in provision of hospitals and other services. These aren’t necessarily improved through private enterprise. The Private Finance Initiative, which was supposed to increase funding for the construction of hospitals through opening them up to private investment, hasn’t worked. Private enterprise does not like shouldering the costs of construction and operation, and expects the state to bail them out when things go wrong. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis point out in their book NHS – SOS that private hospitals are generally smaller than those built and run by the state. The PFI has been marked by massive cost overruns, and the closure of existing hospitals as part of cost-cutting measures. The new hospitals built to replace them have often been smaller, despite being more expensive. And private healthcare does not wish to treat the old, the poor, or people with pre-existing conditions, as there is little or no profit in them. They make their profit treating relatively fit, healthy people. Hence the Tory conference one year, according to Private Eye, had a talk sponsored by one of the private healthcare companies about how the Health Service could do something for the ‘worried well’. It’s also why the American healthcare companies, as well as our own, like BUPA, Circle Health, and Virgin Healthcare, are so desperate to get NHS contracts.

Johnson seems to be supporting something like the Swiss healthcare system. This is a mixture of state and private health insurance. For the poorest, their health insurance is paid entirely by the state. The richest also have purely private health insurance. Most people have a mixture. Now the Swiss woman, who told me this believed that her country had better hospitals than ours, but she felt that her country would still face a similar decline in medical provision through cuts in state funding. I am also unsure what the cost of private medical insurance for most people would be if such a system was introduced in Britain. But whatever it would be, most people would still end up having to pay for some medical services, and these would not be cheap.

The NHS should not privatised, but that is exactly what Boris Johnson wishes to do. And people’s health will suffer. Don’t let him and the Tories do it. Vote Labour, and keep the NHS properly nationalised and funded.

 

Right-Wing Shill Charlie Kirk Personally Experiences Failures of America’s Private Medicine

January 26, 2019

Charlie Kirk is an American Conservative mouthpiece. A little while ago he got very angry at some public meeting his was holding with The Young Turks Cenk Uygur. Uygur committed the terrible crime of asking him how much money he was making. This set Kirk off ranting that ‘He lived like a capitalist every single day’ before rushing off the stage and apparently challenging Uygur to a fight, asking him if he ‘wanted to go’. Fortunately, he managed to calm down and return to the stage without engaging in fisticuffs.

Kirk’s on record as saying that ‘Healthcare is not a right’ and raving about how wonderful America’s private medical system is. It’s therefore highly ironic that he should have experienced its failings first hand. A few days ago Kirk’s mate, Kyle Keshuv, sent a tweet stating that he was outside Cedar Sinai hospital in LA with Kirk. Kirk had put his back out, gone down to the hospital seeking help, only to be told there were no beds available and he’d have to wait on a bench outside. The tweet carried a photo of Kirk lying on said bench, and ended with ‘Cedar Sion Hospital – Disgrace’.

In this video from The Young Turks, hosts Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the incident, laughing at Kirk and his comments about the superiority of American healthcare. They state that they’re only doing so because Kirk is actually now well. Sam Seder also carried the story on his show with the news that Kirk was now in the hospital. He was confined to bed, couldn’t physically stand, but still stood for freedom. The Turks in this video comment on Kirk’s apparent sense of entitlement – he doesn’t believe that people have a right to healthcare, but when it’s him in trouble, he wants to be first in the queue. He also believes that the American healthcare system could be made better through more competition lowering costs. They point out that LA has many excellent hospitals. He could, using his own logic, have gone elsewhere, and then written a bad review of his treatment at Cedar Sion hospital on Yelp.

Uygur and Kasparian defend the hospital, saying that it’s a good one. Uygur himself has taken his child down there many times. But you do have to spend a long time in queues. He also makes it clear that its failings of the American medical system that makes him support Medicare for All. He points out that the system exists in Norway and Northern Europe, and that it’s part of a mixed economy. America also has a mixed economy. Uygur also points out that he’s a capitalist, but it’s because, as a progressive, he wants everyone to have access to good healthcare that he supports Medicare for All and believes medicine should be in the state part of the equation. Everyone, even Charlie Kirk, should have proper medical care. Although Kasparian states that she thinks Kirk shouldn’t have it so much as everyone else.

I’m putting this up because it shows the failures of the American healthcare system, a system which the Tories and New Labour wish to import to Britain. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS completely, but was only stopped by a massive backbench rebellion. And the fact that her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, returned from America pointing out how rubbish it was. But she still wanted a certain percentage of Brits to have private health insurance. And the Tories and their counterparts in the Labour party, the Blairites, have been determined to privatise the health service ever since. Alan Milburn wanted to reduce the NHS to nothing but a kite mark for privately provided services.

According to the privatisers swarming around Thatcher, Major, Blair, Cameron and Tweezer, private industry always provides better quality service than the state, even in healthcare. If you believe some of the twaddle coming from American supporters of their rubbish system, the healthcare is wonderful and you don’t have to wait to be seen. The truth is, it’s expensive, millions of Americans can’t afford private health insurance. I understand the figure is now up to 20 per cent of the population. 40,000 Americans die each year because they can’t afford proper medical care.

But you won’t hear any of this from Nuffield Health or BUPA and their adverts on the TV, nor from Virgin Healthcare or the other private healthcare firms trying to get a piece of that sweet NHS action. Nor will you hear it from Tory health secretaries, like Andrew Lansley or Jeremy Hunt. Or even from Lib Dems like Nick Clegg, who claimed that privately run healthcare, as on the continent, was associated with excellent health outcomes. Or some similar piece of bullsh*t managerial jargon.

The whole Tory/Lib Dem idea has been to run down the health service to the point where the middle class will start turning to private healthcare. The endpoint of that is the American, for-profit system, where if you’re poor, you go the Emergency Room or a charity hospital. And that’s it. It’ll return the healthcare in this country to the appalling state it was in before the Second World War. But who cares if millions of poor suffer and die through disease, so long as the private healthcare company they and their donors head makes big bucks.

Don’t believe their lies, and don’t believe that they’re not trying to privatise the health service. Stop them. Get Tweezer and the rest of the loathsome Thatcherites out, and Jeremy Corbyn and Labour in.

‘I’ Newspaper: Hundreds of Doctors Want to Leave NHS Before Retiring

January 13, 2019

The I newspaper on Friday, 11th January 2019, carried this story, ‘Hundred of Doctors Plan to Quite NHS Before Retirement Age’ by Paul Gallagher on page 11. The article reports that hundreds of senior doctors and consults wish to leave the Health Service because they feel they are overworked. The article runs

Hundreds of senior doctors will quit the NHS before retirement age, according to new analysis.

Six out of 10 consultants say that the main reason for their intention to leave the health service before the age of 60 is the need for a better work-life balance, a survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) reveals.

Concerns about the impact of current pensions legislation is the second most important factor influencing consultants’ planned retirement age, they said. Less that 7 per cent say they expect to remain working in the NHS beyond the age of 65.

Almost 18 per cent of consultants are in the process of planning to reduce their working time even further, including a complete withdrawal from service. More than 40 per cent said they were less likely to take part in work initiatives to reduce waiting lists.

The implications of such a significant loss of skilled and specialist clinicians both on the junior staff they teach and the patients they care for is potentially disastrous for the already beleaguered health service.

Dr Rob Harwood, who chairs the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said: “Such a situation is clearly untenable. During the a deepening workforce crisis, the NHS needs its most experienced and expert doctors now more than ever. I struggle to understand how the Health Secretary can talk about increasing productivity… while allowing the NHS to be a system which perversely encourages its most experienced doctors to do less work, and, in some cases, to leave when they do not want to.”

I am not surprised that this is happening in the NHS at all. There have been very many reports over the past few years about the numbers of doctors planning to leave the health service because of overwork and other issues. And I have seen zero evidence that the government intends to tackle the problem or has any interest in solving it. Beyond the current Health Secretary publicly opening his mouth to proclaim that the government will recruit tens of thousands more doctors and other medical staff, like Tweezer did with her bold ten-year plan for the NHS last week.

Mike has already put up a piece on his blog pointing out that the government has consistently and spectacularly missed its targets for cutting waiting times and recruiting more medical staff for the NHS. He also reported that when the Health Secretary was question about how he plans to recruit more personnel, he put this off, stating it was a question for another review later. So all we have from the Tories in this issue is vague promises. Promises that aren’t going to be honoured.

It looks to me very much that all this is planned, that the government is deliberately creating conditions to encourage doctors, consultants and other medical professionals in the NHS to leave, while publicly doing their level best to give the impression that they genuinely care about the Health Service.

They don’t. Since Thatcher the Tories and New Labour have been absolutely set on running down and privatizing the NHS for the benefit of private healthcare companies like the American insurance fraudster Unum, BUPA, Virgin Healthcare, Circle Healthcare and others. Journalists and activists commenting on this attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS have forecasted that ultimately we may end up with a two-tier health service. The affluent middle class will have access to excellent care from the private sector, but only, of course, if they can pay for it. The rest of us will have worse care from an underfunded and understaffed rump NHS.

If the NHS exists at all, that is. The same observers also forecast that the Tories may well be aiming to introduce the American system of private healthcare, where those who can’t pay are treated at the emergency room. And where 45,000 people a year die because they can’t afford medical treatment and the highest cause of bankruptcies is medical bills.

I’ve seen the Tories use the same tactics to decimate another part of the NHS nearly thirty years ago under Thatcher or John Major. This was the dental service. A majority of dentists left the NHS after one or other of these two Tory prime ministers refused to increase their pay and spending on their surgeries. The result is that now most dentists are private and it’s often difficult, very difficult, to find one of that will take NHS patients.

Make no mistake: the Tories plan to do this to the rest of the NHS. But it’s being done subtly, away from public attention, which they are distracting and misleading with promises to increase NHS funding and personnel recruitment. Promises which they don’t intend to honour.

Radio 4 Programme on the Problems of Private Operations on the NHS

October 2, 2018

Next week, Radio 4’s File on 4 is examining the problems of private medical treatment on the NHS. Entitled ‘Paying the Price: Private Hospitals’, the blurb for it in this week’s Radio Times, for 6-12 October 2018, runs

Being referred for private treatment on the NHS may sound appealing, but is private medicine as good as the NHS? And if things go wrong, how willing is the private sector to admit mistakes? The programme hears from families whose loved ones died following NHS-funded surgery in a private hospital. (p. 133).

The programme is on Tuesday, 9 October 2018 at 8.00 pm.

Actually, the impression I had is that private medicine isn’t any better than the NHS. The doctors and surgeons tend to be the same NHS staff supplementing their incomes with private practice. And when things go wrong, it’s left for the NHS to pick up the pieces and correct their mistakes. I know a couple of people, who spent thousands to have surgery done privately, only for it to go wrong, and have had to go back to the NHS to have it corrected. Which is a drain on the Health Service’s own resources. It’s also deeply unpleasant for the patient to continue suffering after wasting their money on private medicine.

Get the private sector out of the NHS. And when private medical treatment funded by the NHS does go wrong, the NHS should be allowed to reclaim the money from the private healthcare providers and charge them, not the patient, for the corrective surgery.

No, Theresa, Apologising for the State of the NHS Is Not Good Enough: Resign!

January 4, 2018

I couldn’t let this go. I’m afraid I’m still struggling with the cold that’s been going round, and for several days this week simply haven’t felt well enough to blog. But the appearance of Theresa May on the news just now, blandly apologising for the state of the NHS, just annoyed me that little bit too much for me to want to let it go. Of course the NHS is in crisis, with cancelled operations, increased waiting times and extra strain put on doctors, nurses, surgeons and ambulance crews. That’s the way the Tories want it. And it’s happened every winter, ever since they were elected into power under Thatcher. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS, and although she was prevented by a backbench revolt, this is what they’re doing, piecemeal, by stealth. By opening it all up to private competition, handing over hospitals, clinics and other services to private healthcare providers like Virgin Health, Circle Health and others. Meanwhile starving the NHS of funds, in the hope that the crisis in care will cause more people to become disillusioned with this grandest of British institutions, so that there will be little outcry when they finally announce that state healthcare is gone, and we must all buy private medical insurance.

I caught the news about Jeremy Hunt apologising for the state of the NHS this morning. According to Mike over at Vox Political, Jezza was originally unable to be found, but someone decided that he had better put his face before the cameras and try and salvage something from the situation. And so he did a very carefully stage-managed interview.

Now I’ve seen Theresa May do more or less the same on the Beeb. She apologises for the state of the health service, and declared that she knows the situation is difficult.

I dare say she does. She knows, but in my view, doesn’t remotely care. She’ll still carry on with its privatisation, with starving it of resources, with manufacturing resentments among its staff, so that there’s a personnel drain. All to provide a pretext to get more private firms into the NHS. All done with the same glowing fanfare about ‘bringing the expertise of private industry to state the sector’. I’ve heard it so often I can practically write the nauseating script for it.

Enough’s enough. I’ve heard enough insincere apologies from our mendacious leaders, and had more than enough weasel words from Hunt and his vile mistress. Words are cheap. And I don’t trust the Tories to do anything to correct this. Oh, they might make an announcement that they are putting more money into the NHS if people become really angry, and declare that they’re putting more money into it than ever before, and certainly more than the last Labour government. But as has been shown, this is always a lie. The stats are chosen so that they look impressive, but when compared to what spending was like under Labour, they’re always shown to be well below. Meanwhile the Tories dig out once again the well-worn script about how we all must pay for ‘high-spending Labour’, even though it isn’t ‘high-spending Labour’ that’s created the economic crisis. It’s the Tories, pure and simply, and their determination to cut welfare services, privatise the NHS, and grind British working people down, all to give more power and tax money to their friends in big business.

No more insincere apologies. No protests about how awful this is all is, while secretly delighted with the chaos being inflicted on the health service. May is not sorry, as she and the Tories keep on doing this. They only want to appear sorry so that they don’t get voted out.

It’s far too late for that. If we want to save the NHS, then May, Hunt and the rest of this vile, murderous Tory government has to go. Now. And if May wants to show she cares about the NHS, the only thing she can do is resign. And take Jezza with her.

Care UK in Bristol Offer Private Operations for those Wanting to Jump NHS Queues

December 5, 2017

This piece of news was reported in the Bristol Post yesterday. Care UK, the private healthcare provider, which runs some services on behalf of the NHS in Emerson’s Green in Bristol, was sending out material to GPs, including price lists of operations up to £9,000. The company was hoping to encourage them to get people to go private for a number of simple operations, so that they could jump NHS waiting lists. The paper noted that there was a long waiting time at Emerson’s Green for operations.

This naturally outraged GPs and organisations dedicated to preserving our embattled NHS, and much of the article was comments from them attacking this latest attempt by private enterprise to run down the Health Service. Those defending the NHS and protesting against Care UK’s actions made the point that this was very much part of the general ‘direction of travel’ that the government has been following in its policy of privatising the NHS.

Mike put up an article a few days ago reporting on the latest Tory wheeze to privatise GP services, using much the same trick. This involves a special line you can use, where, for £40, you can jump the queue to be seen by a GP. Mike stated, very clearly and entirely accurately, that this was against the principles of the NHS, and was about setting up a two-tier health service.

Of course it is. All these private services violate the founding principles of the NHS that healthcare should be universal and free at the point of service. Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS completely, but was prevented by a cabinet rebellion. She did, however, have the goal of making 25 per cent of the British population take out private health insurance. Peter Lilley and John Major introduced the Private Finance Initiative, because they wanted to open up the NHS to private investment. Meaning they wanted private enterprise to run hospitals, clinics and so on.

As did Tony Blair and New Labour – the right-wingers in the Labour party, who are now telling you that Jeremy Corbyn is too left-wing and unelectable. And David Cameron and Theresa May have been just as determined to privatise the NHS. Under the terms of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 healthcare act, the secretary of state for health is no longer responsible for making sure that everyone has access to state healthcare. And the Tories have deliberately arranged the reforms to allow healthcare providers to charge for services. Again, this is a violation of the fundamental principles of the NHS.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Tories were thrown out of government, and parasites and profiteers like Care UK out of the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn has promised to renationalise the NHS. If there was only one reason why Britain needs him and Labour in government, this is it.

Workers’ Chamber Book: Chapter Breakdown

November 21, 2017

As I mentioned in my last post, a year or so ago I wrote a pamphlet, about 22,000 words long, arguing that as parliament was filled with the extremely rich, who passed legislation solely to benefit the wealthy like themselves and the owners and management of business, parliament should have an elected chamber occupied by working people, elected by working people. So far, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I haven’t found a publisher for it. I put up a brief overview of the book’s contents in my last post. And here’s a chapter by chapter breakdown, so you can see for yourselves what it’s about and some of the arguments involved.

For a Workers’ Parliamentary Chamber

This is an introduction, briefly outlining the purpose of the book, discussing the current domination of parliament by powerful corporate interests, and the working class movements that have attempted to replacement parliamentary democracy with governmental or administrative organs set up by the workers themselves to represent them.

Parliamentary Democracy and Its Drawbacks

This discusses the origins of modern, representative parliamentary democracy in the writings of John Locke, showing how it was tied up with property rights to the exclusion of working people and women. It also discusses the Marxist view of the state as in the instrument of class rule and the demands of working people for the vote. Marx, Engels, Ferdinand Lassalle and Karl Kautsky also supported democracy and free speech as a way of politicising and transferring power to the working class. It also shows how parliament is now dominated by big business. These have sent their company directors to parliament since the Second World War, and the number has massively expanded since the election of Margaret Thatcher. Universal suffrage on its own has not brought the working class to power.

Alternative Working Class Political Assemblies

This describes the alternative forms of government that working people and trade unionists have advocated to work for them in place of a parliamentary system that excludes them. This includes the Trades Parliament advocated by Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, the Chartists’ ‘Convention of the Industrious Classes’, the Russian soviets and their counterparts in Germany and Austria during the council revolution, the emergence and spread of Anarcho-Syndicalism, and its aims, as described by Rudolf Rocker.

Guild Socialism in Britain

This describes the spread of Syndicalist ideas in Britain, and the influence of American Syndicalist movements, such as the I.W.W. It then discusses the formation and political and social theories of Guild Socialism, put forward by Arthur Penty, S.G. Hobson and G.D.H. Cole. This was a British version of Syndicalism, which also included elements of state socialism and the co-operative movement. This chapter also discusses Cole’s critique of capitalist, representative democracy in his Guild Socialism Restated.

Saint-Simon, Fascism and the Corporative State

This traces the origins and development of these two systems of government. Saint-Simon was a French nobleman, who wished to replace the nascent French parliamentary system of the early 19th century with an assembly consisting of three chambers. These would be composed of leading scientists, artists and writers, and industrialists, who would cooperate to administer the state through economic planning and a programme of public works.

The Fascist Corporative State

This describes the development of the Fascist corporative state under Mussolini. This had its origins in the ideas of radical nationalist Syndicalists, such as Michele Bianchi, Livio Ciardi and Edmondo Rossoni, and the Nationalists under Alfredo Rocco. It was also influenced by Alceste De Ambris’ constitution for D’Annunzio’s short-lived regime in Fiume. It traces the process by which the Fascists established the new system, in which the parliamentary state was gradually replaced by government by the corporations, industrial organisations which included both the Fascist trade unions and the employers’ associations, and which culminated in the creation of Mussolini’s Chamber of Fasci and Corporations. It shows how this was used to crush the working class and suppress autonomous trade union activism in favour of the interests of the corporations and the state. The system was a failure, designed to give a veneer of ideological respectability to Mussolini’s personal dictatorship, and the system was criticised by the radical Fascists Sergio Panunzio and Angelo Olivetti, though they continued to support this brutal dictatorship.

Non-Fascist Corporativism

This discusses the way the British state also tried to include representatives of the trade unions and the employers in government, economic planning and industrial policies, and suppress strikes and industrial unrest from Lloyd George’s administration during the First World War. This included the establishment of the Whitley Councils and industrial courts. From 1929 onwards the government also embarked on a policy of industrial diplomacy, the system of industrial control set up by Ernest Bevin during the Second World War under Defence Regulation 58a. It also discusses the corporative policies pursued by successive British governments from 1959 to Mrs Thatcher’s election victory in 1979. During these two decades, governments pursued a policy of economic planning administered through the National Economic Development Council and a prices and incomes policy. This system became increasingly authoritarian as governments attempted to curtail industrial militancy and strike action. The Social Contract, the policy of co-operation between the Labour government and the trade unions, finally collapsed in 1979 during the ‘Winter of Discontent’.

Workers’ Control and Producers’ Chambers in Communist Yugoslavia

This discusses the system of industrial democracy, and workers councils in Communist Yugoslavia. This included a bicameral constitution for local councils. These consisted of a chamber elected by universal suffrage, and a producers’ chamber elected by the works’ councils.

Partial Nationalisation to End Corporate Influence in Parliament

This suggests that the undue influence on parliament of private corporations could be countered, if only partly, if the policy recommended by Italian liberisti before the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship. Those firms which acts as organs of government through welfare contracts, outsourcing or private healthcare contractors should be partially nationalised, as the liberisti believed should be done with the arms industries.

Drawbacks and Criticism

This discusses the criticisms of separate workers’ governmental organs, such as the Russian soviets, by Karl Kautsky. It shows how working class political interests have been undermined through a press dominated by the right. It also shows how some of the theorists of the Council Revolution in Germany, such as Kurt Eisner, saw workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils as an extension of democracy, not a replacement. It also strongly and definitively rejects the corporative systems of Saint-Simon and Mussolini. This part of the book recommends that a workers’ chamber in parliament should be organised according to industry, following the example of the TUC and the GNC Trades’ Parliament. It should also include representatives of the unemployed and disabled, groups that are increasingly disenfranchised and vilified by the Conservatives and right-wing press. Members should be delegates, in order to prevent the emergence of a distinct governing class. It also shows how the working class members of such a chamber would have more interest in expanding and promoting industry, than the elite business people pursuing their own interests in neoliberal economics. It also recommends that the chamber should not be composed of a single party. Additionally, a workers’ chamber may in time form part of a system of workers’ representation in industry, similar to the Yugoslav system. The chapter concludes that while the need for such a chamber may be removed by a genuine working class Labour party, this has been seriously weakened by Tony Blair’s turn to the right and partial abandonment of working class interests. Establishing a chamber to represent Britain’s working people will be immensely difficult, but it may be a valuable bulwark against the domination of parliament by the corporate elite.

I’m considering publishing it myself in some form or another, possibly through the print on demand publisher, Lulu. In the meantime, if anyone wants to read a sample chapter, just let me know by leaving a comment.

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.

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.