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Privatisation: the final solution

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 38, PAGE NO: 31

Janet Gillan, MSc, RGN, NDNCert, DPSN

It is surprisingly quiet on the western front regarding the creeping privatisation of the NHS. I wonder why? Is there a secret strategy in place to slowly but surely choke the life out of the NHS?

It is surprisingly quiet on the western front regarding the creeping privatisation of the NHS. I wonder why? Is there a secret strategy in place to slowly but surely choke the life out of the NHS?

And just where are the protests from health professionals? In its genteel way, the RCN may be collecting information, but let's hope that if and when it decides to shout it will not be too late.

Privatisation is continuing, quietly and insidiously. In Herefordshire, where a cottage hospital is being chucked out of the NHS, nurses are paying the price for our silence.

I have read about a private pathology service being used to analyse body tissue from NHS patients. And because of waiting-list backlogs and an acute shortage of NHS beds, consultants are operating on NHS patients in private hospitals for higher rates of pay. These initiatives are neither cost-effective nor 'seamless', and surely not a solution.

Our professional bodies and unions fiddle while Rome burns. Occasionally they make a token attempt to challenge the steady march of privatisation. The NHS is slowly but surely being broken up and disabled.

The agenda is profit before people, and that does not just mean patients - families and health care workers will suffer too. When health is compromised, lives can be devastated or lost.

The UK has frightening inequalities in health service provision, with access for the poor and vulnerable often second rate. So why is there no public outcry?

The disastrous consequences of the private finance initiative - reduced bed numbers, inadequate staffing ratios and sub-standard buildings and resources - have already been reported. And we have all seen the effects of privatised cleaning services. Also on the agenda is the contracting-out of information services. How on earth will we safeguard sensitive, confidential, staff or patient information?

Privatising services in the NHS is about making profits. It is not born out of altruism or the desire to do good. The stage is set for firms to bid for contracts, not only to build but also to manage hospitals.

It will be a national disaster if the proposal to bring in the independent sector to manage radical change is realised. Managing services that care for vulnerable people is not like managing industry, and there is no evidence that they can do it.

The way to improve the NHS is not to privatise but to strengthen, improve and support its infrastructure. Because our politicians cannot get our health service right, we are the laughing stock of Europe and are going to send patients hundreds of miles away for major surgery - away from their relatives and friends, and all that is familiar to them.

So where are the voices of the health care workers? What are our professional bodies and unions doing in protest to ensure the fundamental tenets of the NHS are protected? Unless some radical, political and very public campaigning begins right now, the NHS will be gone forever.

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