Why the NHS Bill and the Labour Party’s failure to support it matter

Deborah Harrington, National Health Action Party campaigner, provides some context for those who don’t get the point of the NHS Bill and think there is no problem with Labour not turning up to support it.

The first problem of note is Simon Stevens.

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Simon Stevens was an NHS manager. He became a health policy advisor to the New Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn, in 1997, along with Mark Britnell and Penny Dash. He was also a Labour councillor in Lambeth.

He introduced the first privatisations into the NHS, including the Foundation Trusts (making them arm’s length business units, rather than publicly owned services), PFI, and bringing United Health in to run the first privatised GP practices, among many other things.

In 2006 he went to work for United Health (the US’s largest private healthcare corporation) in their Europe division, and in 2008 as president of global operations.

(Mark Britnell went on to KPMG and Penny Dash to McKinsey, where her role has included being a Trust Special Administrator – a role created by Labour).

In that role Stevens led a lobby group, lobbying the US Trade Dept to use trade laws to break open public health services worldwide to create access for US markets. United Health also lobbied against Obama’s affordable care act.

In 2014 the Coalition brought him back as NHS England’s CEO. Within a few months he had produced the 5 Year Forward View (5YFV) , which is what all your hospitals are suffering under, all the closures, reductions in service, land sales.

The 5YFV is completing the implementation of the Health &Social Care Act (2012). Labour calls Lansley’s Act the reorganisation of the NHS, as if it is done and dusted and behaves as if everything else is just a consequence of the de-funding. It isn’t. It is the constant restructuring of the 5 YFV. The money is being used as a lever to get the changes made – comply and you’ll be bailed out, is the message.

Labour welcomed Stevens’ appointment and support the 5 YFV. You can’t oppose privatisation of the NHS and simultaneously support Stevens.

The second problem of note is private sector involvement in the NHS and public ownership.

No matter what the Labour Party says, it appears to have no intention of renationalising the Foundation Trust hospitals, which is essential if they are not to be sold off as hospital chains to foreign investors (one of the next privatisation steps).

It is impossible to get the Labour Party to commit to Bevan’s principles. Efford’s Bill was not a proper ‘NHS’ bill. They refuse to support the actual NHS bill on the grounds that it is another ‘top down reorganisation’. This is based on three things:

  1. That the NHS staff don’t want any more reorganisations. This is not true. Staff know the NHS is in a broken up mess. They need it to be put back together. But Simon Stevens says, in the 5YFV that staff do not want another reorganisation (as he downgrades, closes and restructures all our services), and Simon is god like in the infallibility of his pronouncements according to all the main Parliamentary parties.
  2. That everything is just settling down after Lansley’s Act. It isn’t, as explained above.
  3. They don’t understand the bill’s provisions for returning to Bevan’s NHS, because they don’t understand anything about the nuts and bolts of health provision.

And Labour is quite happy to sell off our public land and assets.

They also had no problem with massive restructuring for the purposes of privatisation. It is only restructuring to bring it back into public ownership they object to.

The Bill itself was totemic. In the face of piss poor opposition to date from Labour to the Coalition’s and now the Tories’ brutal destruction (they would have had to confess – and renounce- their role in the privatisation to successfully oppose), their support for the bill would have been a marker of intent on their part. And, with the SNP supportĀ  and Lucas herself, would have indicated the start of a progressive alliance that might have posed a real threat to the government.

Unfortunately that’s of little interest to a large section of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

It should be a matter of concern to the Corbynistas that John McDonnell was happy for Labour MPs to attend and vote in favour of the bill. He thought any problems could be dealt with in committee stage. But Labour Central issued the standard reply to be sent to constituents by all MPs, presumably against his will? – and Corbyn’s? – on Thursday, saying they all had constituency duties, when they had had months of notice and could have rearranged their schedules for the day.

You have to understand that this is a story of corporate capture of our democratic processes, not a question of party political purity. United Health, McKinsey, KPMG, PwC and others are making the decisions about our NHS – on behalf of both the Tories and Labour. New Labour introduced New Public Management – the idea that government is about management of an entrepreneurial culture, not about political ideology. They brought think tanks and management consultants in to take the place of the civil service. The same management consultants whose major clients are global corporations.

We need to fight this corruption of our democracy. Then the Labour Parliamentary party might return to the values most of its supporters old and new hold dear.

Posted from here.

3 thoughts on “Why the NHS Bill and the Labour Party’s failure to support it matter

    • I can’t claim credit David, Deborah Harrington wrote it – and I agree, it’s really clear, well informed and well thought out. Glad she let me post it on Plain Speaker