Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Will benefit cuts help patients? No.

by Dr Kay Phillips, a GP in Manchester.
David Cameron's recent pronouncements about ending the ‘something for nothing' culture around welfare made me shudder in horror. He talked about working-age people being ‘encouraged to sit at home' on benefits, and the need to end this ‘culture of entitlement'.

This amounts to nothing more than scapegoating the poorest in our country and a strategy of stoking resentment between the poor and the very poor. I've always been proud of the welfare state and thought of it as being the bedrock of decent society in Britain.

When travelling around other parts of the world you appreciate the fact that we have a safety net, whereby the poorest and most vulnerable are looked after. We have a right to medical care, education and enough money to be able to eat and feed our families. None of us know whether one day we may fall on hard times and need the welfare state to be there for us.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Our NHS is our common wealth


The notion of madness is widely understood as a health condition that requires treatment. Market madness is not. If we are to save the National Health Service, there must be treatment for this appalling condition that now afflicts our hospitals and GP surgeries.

In South London, a hospital trust is collapsing due to its debts. Fifty more hospital trusts around the country are in a similar position. Why? Because both Labour and Conservative governments insisted on cooking the books to make it look like they were investing in our healthcare. They did this by giving private companies very lucrative contracts to build and maintain hospitals. These contracts allowed these companies to charges huge interest rates on loans that they gave to allow the NHS to build hospitals. Because these loans would need to be paid off over 25-30 years in most cases, the cost would be more than ten times the cost of direct government investment to build a hospital and would entail a very large amount of profit for the private financers. This policy was called the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). It is a disaster for the NHS and government finances.

The capital cost of rebuilding Calderdale Royal Hospital in Yorkshire is £64.6m but the scheme will end up costing Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust a total of £773.2m. Building the new Walsgrave district general hospital in Coventry will jump from an initial £379m to an eventual £4bn.

Current estimates of the final cost of the PFI programme in health and education are £301billion in repayments. These repayments do not come from the idiotic politicians obsessed with the notion that the private sector does things better (take a look at the mess in the banking system) who organized and negotiated these awful contracts. They do not come from the politicians and private financiers who cheerlead this private money making scheme at the expense of our health. It comes from the taxpayer who now has huge governmental debt built in for the next 30 years when all the investment could have come at less than a tenth of the cost.

The Labour government moved to creating an internal market in the NHS by launching the Foundation hospitals and trusts. The layer of managers and accountants that Margaret Thatcher brought into the NHS swelled in this internal market. Now the logic of a market has hit home as some will be wealthy while others collapse. The problem is that this means hospitals closing, poorer standards of care, less staff being paid lower wages and more selective healthcare with those most in need being turned away.

What is the solution of the ConDems? To increase the market in healthcare by getting GPs involved and letting private companies take over parts of the health service. When a cure doesn’t work, just do it more and more while looking the other way and hoping no one blames you. Since sliding into government, the ConDems have quietly added 39 new PFI contracts and £5.36billion to the debt. It has been quiet because both parties attacked Labour for going for PFI.

The National Health Service is one of the greatest prides of British social life. It is the most wonderful gain for working people in the last hundred years. It is now in real danger from the profit takers and the politicians who do their bidding. It must be stopped.

These contracts should be scrapped and replaced with direct government investment in health care. If effective taxes were levied against the financial sector and the private hospitals that make people pay for health care, the government could afford this investment. If the layer of managers and accountants were removed from the NHS, it would free significant resources for health. If the false market was removed, health care could be more organized and effective.

This country needs more nurses, more hospitals and clinics and less debt so why are the politicians helping the corporate looters to destroy our NHS. It is too important to lose and an alternative strategy is urgently needed.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

GOVE ACCEPTS GALLOWAY'S BRADFORD SCHOOLS' INVITE


Bradford West MP George Galloway met the Secretary of State Michael
Gove today (Thursday) to discuss the crisis in Bradford secondary education,
where the GCSE results are among the worst in the country.

'It was an extremely productive meeting,' said Galloway. 'Both of us
agreed that the London Challenge had raised standards in
London schools. I suggested a similar approach, a Bradford Challenge.'

The London Challenge school improvement programme was established in
2003 to improve outcomes in low-performing secondary schools in the
capital. The programme uses independent, experienced education
experts, known as London Challenge advisers, to identify need and
broker support for under-performing schools. The advisers are supported
by a small administrative team based in the Department for Education
(DfE). The cost of the support and the services brokered comes
directly from the DfE and is spent as the adviser directs. Many of
these advisers are also National or Local Leaders of Education.

The Secretary of State accepted Galloway’s invitation to come to
Bradford in the autumn, bringing with him educationalists who had been
at the heart of the London Challenge project. They will meet with,
discuss and have lunch with community groups and others on a
fact-finding visit. Following that visit, the Secretary of State and
George Galloway will look forward to receiving proposals for a pilot
project.