On April fool’s day this year the Government, with some minor criticism but certainly no obstruction from the Labour Party, placed the responsibility for ‘buying’ and running NHS services into the hands of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). According to the official blurb the ” Clinical Commissioning Groups are groups of GPs that, from April 2013, will be responsible for planning and designing local health services in England. They will do this by ‘commissioning’ or buying health and care services including:
1) Planned hospital care
2) Urgent and emergency care
3) Rehabilitation care
4) Community health services
5) Mental health and learning disability services
6) To do this Clinical Commissioning Groups will work with patients and health and social care partners (e.g. local hospitals, local authorities, local community groups etc) to ensure services meet local needs. CCG boards are made up of GPs from the local area and at least one registered nurse and one secondary care specialist doctor .”
Just who are the health and social care partners mentioned above? They say “local hospitals, local authorities, local community groups etc” but that, especially the “etc” at the end, could cover a lot of things. Could these groups lurking in the ‘etc’ include the building companies that own many of the hospitals and rent them to the NHS through the PFI scheme? Health care is the modern gold-rush for many companies clamouring to diversify into this lucrative industry. Basically, GPs have been pulled into the drive towards privatisation and made accomplices whether they want to be or not as all GP practices have to belong to their appropriate CCG.
When these CCGs are ‘buying’ services, often they will have to ‘buy’ them from outside of the NHS as years of cuts and the deliberate running down of some services mean that these services virtually no longer exist in what most of us would consider to be the NHS. The blurring of lines between what is private and what is public healthcare that was evident in the expensive glossy booklets that were posted to everyone to announce the 1st April takeover of NHS services by the CCGs is another way that this scheme helps to carry on the privatisation of our publicly owned and run NHS.
Evidence of this can be seen from the Wakefield CCG which has set up a company called Novus Health. This company was set up ” in January 2007 following discussions between GPs and hospital specialists in the Wakefield District.” This company, which the CCG responsible would class as part of the NHS, is in fact a parasite. In the company’s own words it provides its services making use ” where possible, of existing health centre with appropriate facilities to provide care, taking advantage of easier access.” In other words it rides on the back of the NHS taking profits without sharing the costs. Its business address is Kings Medical Centre, Normanton (Normanton is a town within the Wakefield District). The Wakefield CCG has its meetings at Kings Medical Centre, Normanton, and one of the leading GPs on the CCG is Dr David Brown who is senior partner in a practice run from Kings Medical Centre, Normanton.
In a blog posted on the CCG/Kings Medical Centre website, Dr Brown tells his patients that ” the practice has just signed up to allow Novus Health to run a clinic in the surgery to provide hearing aids and assessment of patients with age related hearing loss. The service is for people over 55 years of age with uncomplicated age related hearing loss who would like to try a hearing aid. The service is completely free and fully funded by the NHS .” He further tells us that this service is also being held at 6 other NHS locations across the Wakefield District. So this service is ‘bought’ by the CCG (presumably using NHS money) from Novus Health to give us the service that was formerly provided by the real NHS, isn’t there a moral/legal dilemma here with the buyer and seller being the same persons? Novus Health also advertise on their site; Vasectomy, Carpal Tunnel, and Community Physiotherapy services.
Official pamphlets, websites etc tell us that the ” Clinical Commissioning Groups will be overseen by the ‘NHS England’ at a national level. NHS England is a new body that will make sure that Clinical Commissioning groups have the capacity and capability to successfully commission services for their local population. NHS England will also ensure that the Clinical Commissioning Groups meet their financial responsibilities. ” And further that “As well as overseeing Clinical Commissioning Groups, the NHS England will commission some services itself. These are:
1) General Practice
4) Specialist services (i.e. those required by a limited number of people).”
And so the scam that is CCGs is also enlarged and controlled by a bigger, central scam!
This is only a very tiny part of what is happening and will continue to happen across the country as the builders of roads and houses vie with transport companies and optical chain-stores to grab the choicest cuts of the NHS and squeeze every last penny of profit from them.
Many will point to this latest and possibly last stage of privatisation of the NHS as the culmination of the plan started by the Thatcher Government in the 1980’s. This is an essentially correct but a one-sided conclusion to come to.
Although the privatisation of the NHS can be seen to begin with the privatising of cleaning services and re-grading battles of the 80’s, we must not forget the ‘Labour’ years when, far from turning back the attacks on the NHS of the Thatcher/Major administrations, under Blair and Brown we witnessed the ‘Foundation Trust’ scam which took the journey to privatisation onto the next level, and which, incidentally, is the main reason for the Mid Staffs hospital scandal in which around 400 patients are reckoned to have died needlessly (see Proletarian issue 52. ‘NHS-death by a thousand cuts’).
The Labour Governments also introduced the PFI scheme which saw hospitals, and many other public buildings, knocked down, with the land sold off while a private company built a new one to rent to the NHS at extortionate rates. This was just another way for the privateers to suck the financial lifeblood from the NHS, causing it to close services and wards and cut staff and/or lower their pay and pensions. That is what has paved the way to the present crisis where our publicly owned health service lies prostrate and the CCGs, willingly or otherwise, are poised to deliver the coup de grace.
So it is no use voting Labour to save the health service.
The only thing that will deliver a proper health service free at the point of delivery is to work for the revolutionary overthrow of the present political system and run it under the rule of the working class. It is only then that we will not only see the NHS return to its hey-day but go much further to become like the Soviet health service that it was only ever a pale replica of.