Posts Tagged ‘Wyre Forest’

Private Eye’s Demolition of Fraudulent New Labour Pro-NHS Privatisation Paper

August 5, 2020

This is another piece I found in an old issue of Private Eye, for 15th-28th October 2004. New Labour was as keen as the Tories to privatise the NHS, all in the name of introducing into it the supposedly greater efficiency and management skills of private enterprise. They were heavily influenced by the American private healthcare company, Kaiser Permanente, which was used as a model for their NHS reforms. But the report comparing the supposedly greater performance of Kaiser Permanente to the NHS was biased and fraudulent, as Private Eye’s article ‘NHS Privatisation – Kaiser bill’ revealed in that issue’s ‘In the Back’ section. The article runs

LAST WEEK’s NHS modernisation Agency conference on the much-hyped treatment centre programme – the mix of private and NHS one-stop units springing up around the country to offer quick and relatively easy diagnosis and surgery – struck a self-congratulatory note.

But a study published this summer suggests there is no evidence that bringing private companies into the NHS is increasing efficiency or reducing costs. Quite the opposite in fact.

This news will not please the government, which has always promoted health secretary John Reid’s favourite private US healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente, citing a seven-page research paper in the British Medical Journal in 2002 which purported to show that Kaiser offered “better performance at roughly the same costs as the NHS”.

This conclusion, extolling the benefits of competition, was manna from heaven for health minister who had been criticised for closing 10,000 NHS beds since Labour came to power. But it seems it was all nonsense.

For a start, two of the report’s three authors,used to work for Kaiser; and their paper triggered a storm of protest in the US and from the medical and scientific community here, highlighting its flawed analysis and conclusions. It emerged that Kaiser’s costs were deflated while NHS costs were inflated; Kaiser patients were the “working well” but NHS patients included the poor, elderly and chronically ill; and individual Kaiser charges for visits and treatment were ignored.

Nevertheless, the protests were ignored and the paper – described by one leading academic as “not worthy of a first year student” – went on to form British government policy, featuring in the 2002 review of NHS funding by Derek Wanless and the subsequent white paper on how to deliver the NHS plan. The department of health even joined forces with Kaiser in “learning from Kaiser Permanente” projects managing chronic conditions and care.

In the summer, however, the scientific record was finally put straight with a paper in the British Journal of General Practice which comprehensively exposed that the Kaiser paper was propaganda masked as science. It detailed the way in which authors used counting tricks including a curious foreign exchange currency conversion which had the effect of almost doubling NHS costs. Despite this evidence the Kaiser paper has still not been officially withdrawn. Instead it is still promoted on health department websites.

Allyson Pollock, professor of health policy at University College London and one of the authors of the critical BJGP paper, said: “There is no evidence that introducing private companies increases efficiency or quality or reduces costs. Indeed all the evidence goes the other way. Markets – even those underwritten by the state – do not deliver comprehensive universal healthcare. Research in the US has shown how private health providers select the profitable patients, treatments and conditions and at a greater cost than public providers.”

Professor Pollock is a very long-time opponent of NHS privatisation. I think I put up another article from Private Eye from nearly 20 years or so ago, in which she led a campaign against the New Labour closure of a hospital in Wyre Forest. She’s also one of the contributors to Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book attacking the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS.

But New Labour continued in their piecemeal privatisation of the NHS, and this has been followed by the Tories. Boris Johnson wants to include it in a trade deal with the US, but has kept it and the rest of the deal secret. Jeremy Corbyn revealed what the Tories were doing, and our mendacious, scumbag media howled that he was lying. But it’s the Tories who were.

Corbyn promised to renationalise and revitalise the NHS. That was one of the reasons the right-wing political and media establishment hated and reviled him and his supporters: he threatened to return the Labour party to its working class, socialist roots, empowering ordinary people and restoring the welfare state. And dismantling the zombie economics of Thatcherism. And that really couldn’t be tolerated. Hence the smears of him as a Communist, Trotskyite and anti-Semite.

Now we have Keir Starmer instead, another Blairite, who seems determined to restore the power of the Thatcherites in the Labour party. And carry on with their failed, destructive policy of NHS privatisation.

Private Eye on Successful Campaign against Blairite Hospital Privatisation by Pro-NHS Group

July 24, 2020

One of the political developments prompted by New Labour’s wholesale adoption of the Tory programme of the destruction of the welfare state and privatisation, including that of the NHS, is that opposition to these policies moved away from the party to popular organisations set up by concerned professionals, activists and members of the public. This was particularly true of organised opposition to the privatisation of the NHS, which led to the formation of the NHS Action Party. In the same issue of Private Eye which revealed how Blair and his cronies in private industry wished to force through even more privatisation, 15-28 June 2001) the very first article was about how a New Labour politico had suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of opponents of plans for the closure of beds at Kidderminster Hospital and the transfer of services to a new, PFI-funded hospital at Worcester. The article, ‘Wyre, Oh Wyre’, ran

The best election result by far was at Wyre Forest, where the ambitious junior minister at the lord chancellor’s department, barrister David Lock (10,857 votes) was hammered out of sight by the Health Concern candidate, Richard Taylor (28,487 votes).

The Eye was one of the first to appreciate the challenge from Health Concern. Under the heading Wyres Crossed way back in June last year, we traced the the circuitous record of David Lock over the key local issue of the proposed closure of all acute services at Kidderminster Hospital (Eye 1007). Lock was against the proposals when he stood for the seat and won it unexpectedly in 1997. But his enthusiasm for the campaign against closure waned as he climbed into the government.

His ire was directed against those who opposed plans for the new hospital, especially professor Allyson Pollock of the University College of London’s school of public policy. Mr Lock complained not to Prof Pollock herself but to the chairman of the University College council, Lord Young of Graffham.

The Eye article drew a mocking reply from the MP who proclaimed himself a regular Eye reader and bitterly attacked Prof Pollock, who, he wrote, “didn’t bother to check her facts with the health authority before going to print”. This letter drew a furious and devastating response from Richard Taylor, a retired consultant, whose letter (Eye 1007) exposed Mr Lock as, well, having been economical with the truth.

This was followed the following issue (1008) by a letter from Allyson Pollock pointing out that her facts about the hospital were quite correct. The cost of new PFI facility at Worcester replacing the services at Kidderminster had risen from £49m to £108m, all to provide 44 percent fewer acute beds for more patients.

So besieged was Mr Lock by the campaigner for the hospital that he resorted to his lawyers. Eye 1023 reported that he had threatened to sue Frank Baillie, a vice-chairman of Health Concern, for telling the left-wing weekly Tribune that Lock “had gone for promotion instead of standing side by side with the people of Wyre Forest”. Lawyers for the local authority (where Health Concern was and is the largest party) told Mr Baillie that they would not meet the costs of a libel action, and Baillie was forced to issue a grovelling and humiliating apology to Lock for saying something that was demonstrably true.

Mr Lock had not finished yet and his next assault on his critics won him the much-coveted spot of Man In The Eye (1026). He had rung a small publisher of a local magazine called For You who had had the nerve to reprint the Eye’s reports of the above events and as usual threatened them with a libel writ and demanded and an apology and substantial damages. He objected in particular to the observation: “It is a racing certainty that an Independent MP who will truly represent the wishes of the people will be elected.” Somehow the litigious MP did not get his apology or his damages before the election, when the magazine’s prediction came so handsomely true.

There is talk up in Kidderminster of a amss phone-in to the former MP demanding an apology and even substantial damages for contest the now rather obvious fact that enormous majority of his constituents did not agree with him.

Professor Pollock is the author of a series of works attacking the privatisation of the NHS, and I think she’s also a contributor to Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis superb NHS -SOS, which minutely describes and exposes it. I think Health Concerns victory at Wyre Forest may be exceptional, because of the difficulties in getting a small, independent party or organisation off the ground and gathering enough votes to challenge the big parties.

But unfortunately, as Starmer shows himself keen to push through the Blairite agenda of the early 21st century, this may be the only tactic available to people who really want to preserve the NHS, and the health, prosperity and welfare of their fellow citizens.