The Labour Party has a lot to answer for in terms of the attacks it has carried out on the NHS and public services. And while positive changes are afoot in the Labour Party, such that the Shadow Cabinet are now firmly opposed to austerity, the majority of Labour’s parliamentary leadership still support austerity and oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.
For example, while Corbyn is fully behind the NHS Reinstatement Bill — an important parliamentary bill which proposes to reverse the privatisation of the NHS — most Labour MPs, including Owen Smith (the current challenger to Corbyn’s leadership) will not support it.
But things are changing, and support for the Bill within Labour circles is now gaining pace under Corbyn’s progressive leadership.
On July 13, Labour MP Margaret Greenwood (MP for Wirral West) tabled the NHS Bill as a cross party Bill. This is a positive step forward to enable the future renationalisation of the NHS. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Diane Abbott explained:
“Under the Tories, there has been top-down reorganisation, services have not been not protected, staff morale is at rock-bottom, and measured performance continues to deteriorate. This is the chaos they have introduced.
“Labour stands for the opposite. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour will have no truck with Tory plans for break-up and privatisation of the NHS. Instead, we will develop plans to strengthen and improve the NHS and oppose all damaging cuts. Reinstating the ‘National’ in the NHS is a part of that process.” (July 13)
As socialists have been saying for decades: there is plenty of money in Britain to provide for a fully funded NHS – just think of the £120 billion a year in uncollected tax from the super-rich; or how about using the money wasted on our Trident weapons system to fund vital public services? As Trident opponent, Diane Abbott, stated earlier this month:
“The cost [of Trident] is truly enormous. Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee estimates the total cost of replacing Trident is £167 billion. The detailed estimate from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is that the total cost is actually £205 billion. Even at the lower estimate, this is over £2,500 for every woman, man and child in this country.
“If this sum were used to fund public investment it could help to transform the current economic crisis and significantly raise living standards…” (July 19)
Owen Smith might disagree on this issue, however, because he voted to support Trident’s renewal earlier this month.
“…The Bill is intended to fully restore the NHS as an accountable public service by reversing marketisation in the NHS, abolishing the purchaser-provider split, ending contracting, re-establishing public bodies and making public services accountable to local communities. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 provided the framework for the privatisation of the NHS, and we are seeing that privatisation happen at pace. I believe that the Act brought in three core changes that are driving that privatisation. First, it removed the legal duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide and secure a comprehensive national health service in England. Secondly, it included a requirement to put NHS contracts out to competitive tender in the free market, putting the profit motive at the heart of the service. Thirdly, it allowed NHS hospitals to make up to 49% of their money out of private patients.
“The Bill makes the case for a planned, managed health service. It would reinstate the duty of the Health Secretary, lost under the 2012 Act, to provide a secure and comprehensive NHS. That is important because, under the current arrangements, clinical commissioning groups do not have to serve a particular geographic area and are not required to tend to all illnesses and conditions. In some areas, certain treatments, such as hip and knee replacements and cataract operations, are already being rationed. Reinstating the Secretary of State’s duty is vital to provide the Government accountability needed to maintain a comprehensive NHS.
“The 2012 Act forces NHS contracts out to competitive tender in the marketplace, allowing private companies to cherry-pick NHS services from which they can make money. Since 2012, we have seen the effect of NHS contracts going to private companies—it undermines NHS services and the pay and conditions of staff and fragments the service. The sums of money involved are eye-watering. The Government would have us believe that only 6% of contracts go to private firms, but according to the NHS Support Federation, private firms won 36.8% of contracts in 2014-15, securing £3.54 billion of the £9.628 billion of deals awarded.
“Does that matter? I say yes, absolutely, without question. Contracting out is very expensive. In the USA, the cost accounts for about 30% of healthcare expenditure, compared with 5% in the non-marketised NHS pre-1990. Any private company has a duty to generate profit for shareholders, but the money we pay through our taxes should be spent on patient care and should not go to shareholders. Putting healthcare contracts out to competitive tender means money being spent on marketing and contract lawyers that could be spent on patients. A proliferation of providers also means a proliferation of administrative costs and opens up opportunities for fraud…”