Tag Archives: Health and Social Care Act 2012

Fears over Cameron’s ‘rocket boosters’ TTIP pledge

Cameron at the G20: He reckons he has put "rocket boosters" on the planned TTIP agreement. But is it just a lot of hot air?

Cameron at the G20: He reckons he has put “rocket boosters” on the planned TTIP agreement. But is it just a lot of hot air?

Does anyone else think David Cameron’s pledge to put “rocket boosters” on plans for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has more to do with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s doubts about the project than anything else?

A little more than two weeks ago, Mr Juncker announced that he was reviewing part of the proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scheme, a part of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that critics say would make it possible for corporations to sue national governments for damages if new legislation was likely to affect their profitability.

(Note that a BBC report has described it as an element of TTIP which “would allow foreign investors to go to an international tribunal for compensation if a government breaks the rules”. This is not true – Mr Juncker has stated that the Commission “will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes” – but what can we expect from a BBC that is hopelessly enslaved to Conservative ideology?)

According to the BBC, Cameron claimed that EU and US leaders had all agreed that TTIP “is a deal we want”. Oh really?

The report goes on to say he “‘sensed an enthusiasm'” – honestly, visit the site and read it yourself if you think Yr Obdt Srvt is making it up! – “from EU leaders and US President Barack Obama during a meeting in Brisbane earlier, and was now ‘hopeful of progress’ on TTIP.”

So did they actually say they wanted this deal to go through? Or is Cameron just talking through his hat again?

Conservative ministers seem to be making a habit of coming back from meetings with foreign ministers with an extravagant claim, only for it to fall apart under examination – look at George Osborne’s disastrous failure over the EU surcharge.

Regarding the concern Mr Juncker raised over ISDS, Cameron blathered: “We’ve signed trade deal after trade deal and it’s never been a problem in the past.” How reassuring. But those trade deals were not the same as this, and it is right that Mr Juncker should examine the evidence critically in the light of public outcry. Cameron really has no power in this matter; it is an agreement between the EU – not the UK – and America.

Cameron also tried to make light of fears that ISDS would ‘lock in’ his changes to the English National Health Service, and make it possible to lock them into the health service in other parts of the UK if they fall under Tory control in the future. “There’s no threat, I believe, from TTIP to the National Health Service,” he wibbled, “and we should just knock that on the head as an empty threat.” Again, how reassuring. But he provided no guarantees and we should not believe him if he did.

You see, Cameron wants to lock his changes into the NHS, and he sees TTIP as the mechanism for achieving this.

His problem is that talks are proceeding at a pace that means any agreement will take place after the UK’s General Election in May next year – and an elected Labour government would repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which allowed private healthcare firms to cherry-pick services in the English NHS, the very next day.

This is one reason you should ignore claims that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is unelectable. Cameron is clearly terrified that he will lose power before he can hammer the final nail in the coffin of public healthcare in the UK.

His claims that all involved are keen to accelerate the TTIP agreement with “rocket boosters” are just – appropriately – gusts of hot air.

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Three letters: F-O-X

liamfox

Has anybody examined the verbal vandalism attempted by former Defence Secretary Liam Fox on the National Health Service this week?

Mr Fox’s known financial interests include receiving £5,000 to run his private office in October 2012 from investment company IPGL Ltd, who purchased healthcare pharma company Cyprotex.

That didn’t stop him from trying to starve what’s left of the publicly-owned part of our health service of the ever-dwindling portion of taxpayers’ cash earmarked for it.

He demanded that NHS funding should not be ring-fenced after the 2015 general election, saying its performance does not justify the favour.

He told The Times: “I think we’ve tested to destruction the idea that simply throwing lots more money at the health service will make it better.

“The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes.

“We’ve become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system.

“If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.”

There’s a lot of material in there that isn’t worth the time it took to cut and paste it (from the Guardian article) – but it needs to be addressed because there will be people in this country who believe it.

Firstly: Ring-fencing the budget does not mean it has remained at pre-2010 heights. In fact all parts of the NHS have had to cut budgets by four per cent, year on year, in order to meet the so-called ‘Nicholson challenge’ to cut £20 billion from the overall budget by 2015. In addition, while David Cameron has insisted that his government will have increased that budget by £12.7 billion by 2015, figures up to 2013 show a decrease in funding.

They haven’t been “throwing lots more money at the health service”; they’ve been starving it. This came after a decade of, yes, record investment – which resulted in record levels of public satisfaction as it met ambitious targets to cut waiting times and improve patient care.

It was only after the Conservative-led Coalition government came into office that NHS providers began to be cut and squeezed into downsizing, mergers, centralisation and closures. The aim is to reduce the NHS in England to a very few short-staffed, demoralised and overloaded central units, covering only those services deemed unprofitable by private sector providers – including the company that gave Mr Fox his five grand.

He’s not alone – 78 per cent of his fellows in the Parliamentary Conservative Party, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the former Health Secretary who pushed through the unwanted legislation that made this possible, also have financial or vested interests in private healthcare.

You’ll have noticed that Mr Fox did not declare that he had received money from a company associated with private healthcare when he made his comments. The fact is that his fellow Tories, when discussing the then-Health and Social Care Bill, didn’t declare theirs either.

Since the Bill became law, it seems MPs have been falling over themselves to talk the NHS into the grave. But consider this: They all have a financial interest in doing so. If they succeed in their plan to turn over taxpayers’ money to private firms and let the public service wither away, then they are likely to receive dividends from the various companies in which they are involved.

This is known as ‘obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception’ or, more commonly, fraud.

Mr Fox already had to resign his cabinet position because of an inappropriate business relationship.

Now he is making the same mistake again – and risking more than his reputation.

(Much more information on the Tory-led privatisation of the NHS is available in NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis and published by Oneworld. To find out how you can work to reverse the damage being done to the most cherished organisation in the UK, please visit www.keepournhspublic.com and www.nhscampaign.org.uk)

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So you thought the battle for the NHS was over, did you?

n4s_nhs1

If you’ve been following the mainstream news media, that’s probably forgiveable.

The fact is that the House of Lords will be debating – today – a so-called ‘fatal’ motion to annul the new section 75 NHS privatisation regulations, on the grounds that they do not allow clinical commissioning groups to employ service providers in the best interests of patients.

The strict wording of the motion is as follows: Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will move the humble address to the Queen, praying that “the National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013, laid before the House on March 11, be annulled on the grounds that they do not implement the assurances given by Ministers to Parliament during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients (SI 2013/500).”

These are the regulations that were withdrawn and rewritten very hastily, after a storm of protest over backdoor privatisation of NHS services last month. Now they are back before Parliamentarians again – and the prognosis is not healthy.

Even after the criticism that led to the re-drafting, the regulations require all NHS services to be put out to competition unless the commissioners can prove there is only one provider capable of delivering them. Such decisions could expose CCGs to costly legal challenges.

It means commissioners will be forced to open up – to private sector competition – any part of the NHS that companies think will be profitable, with very few exceptions.

This means funding could be drained from NHS hospitals as services are relocated elsewhere, and local health decision-makers will be able to do little or nothing to protect them from this starvation of funds.

Now, dear reader, you might be sitting at your computer wondering what all the fuss is about. If private providers get the contracts, it will be because they can provide a superior service at lower cost, right? That’s what this is all about, right?

Wrong.

Have you ever known costs to go down after a publicly-owned organisation was privatised? Is your gas bill lower now than it was in the 1980s? How about your electricity bill? Water? If you’re still with BT for telecommunications, is that bill lower than before privatisation in the 1980s?

Even adjusting for inflation, that seems unlikely.

No, the reason NHS services (in England only, of course, as health is a devolved issue) are being offered up to tender is to make fat profits for the greedy bosses of private healthcare companies, who have made themselves very close to leading members of the Conservative Party. Over the last few years, many questions have been asked about these connections – how much have these companies contributed to the Conservative Party over the last few years? How many Conservative MPs are likely to receive financial benefits from this outsourcing of funds?

If you have a Conservative MP, a Freedom of Information request about their own interests might be illuminating in this regard.

Think about the long-term effects. If an NHS hospital is starved of cash, this means it will be hard-pressed to provide whatever services remain with it – and these are likely to be the more costly and high-pressure accident and emergency-type services. These pressures could lead to more mistakes of the kind that have been filling up media headlines recently, and in any case the financial losses could eventually cause NHS hospitals to close – or be taken over by a private company.

What then? The only choice for people living nearby will be to go private, and pay for the health service that was previously free.

If you live in England, is that really what you want? To end up forced to pay – at great cost – for services that are currently free to everybody?

You’d better hope the Lords see sense this afternoon and send the government back to think, yet again.