Labour in Government is committed to ending the rolling privatisation of the NHS and bringing it back into public ownership. But action is required now. How to protect the NHS from a Johnson/Trump sell off deal? During Trump’s red carpet state visit (when asked about whether he had his eyes on our NHS) we firmly heard him say ‘absolutely’ ‘everything should be on the table’. Oops. Do you remember that peeved sideways glance from Theresa May? The next day Trump uttered a type of retraction and Tory MPs came out in force to reassure the public. Damage limitation. But many of us are fully aware that the NHS is already being sold off right from under our noses. In mid-February £127m of NHS contracts were being tendered despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisting “no privatisation on my watch”. Disingenuous words to say the least.
For decades, Conservative policy has been to privatise the NHS. The 1977 Ridley Report, secretly drafted for Thatcher’s shadow cabinet, comprehensively addressed the task of how to break up the public sector. This instruction manual has been dutifully and successfully enacted by successive Tory governments. The NHS was the last on the hit list as it was recognised this was where the most public resistance would be. It was the people’s “jewel in the crown” (to coin an imperialist term). The NHS would need to be taken by ‘stealth’. And this is exactly what has been happening; especially since the 2012 NHS and Social Care Act which abolished the state’s responsibility for the health of the nation. Bit by bit the NHS has been disappearing under privatisation. Shareholders profiting from illness. This cannot be right.
Nye Bevan famously said “the NHS will last as long as there are enough folk left with the faith to fight for it”. But how do we encourage this fight when people are not being told the truth. Local NHS campaigners are frequently met by resident’s reaction that they do not believe the NHS is being privatised. They have been lulled into a false sense of security by the ‘free at the point of use’ strap line. But how long will it be before this strap line becomes meaningless? Last year a Tory MP proposed a bill that if passed would lead to patients paying for GP appointments and routine hospital procedures. No. We need to take up this fight in earnest.
We Own It are currently talking with Trade Law experts and are about to launch a new campaign aimed at securing legal protection for the NHS e.g. exemption in trade deals or pushing for the NHS Reinstatement Bill.
“Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, has told the public not to worry about the NHS being sold off as part of the trade deal. But truth is that the NHS is already being privatised, and the prospect of a trade deal with the US just makes it more vulnerable. Liz Truss’s words are meaningless – we need concrete legal protections for our health service, not just empty promises” We Own It.
We will keep you posted about this campaign.
Meanwhile, here is some in depth reading for those interested:-