The NHS (Reinstatement) Bill
The dismantling of the NHS in Britain has advanced at such a rate that a bill, put forward by Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick, will be discussed in Parliament on 11 March to ‘Reinstate the NHS’.
One example of the NHS disappearing into the private sector without anyone noticing is the phone service formerly known as ‘NHS Direct’, now NHS 111. The media in its usual NHS bashing mode has ferocious headlines of ‘catastrophic NHS failures’ to do with that phone advice service. That phone service is in fact privatised. The private company is using the franchise name ‘NHS”. This was highlighted in a letter to the Guardian:
The government know that the key to their devious and subversive plot to privatise the NHS has to be to soften up the public to the idea. This started years ago, even before Andrew Lansley blocked the release of a report praising the service, and continues with the almost daily denigration of the quality of care.
Much of the media seem to collude with this. The latest example is how the tragic case of baby William Mead was reported. NHS 111 failed on several occasions. Nowhere was it said that NHS 111 has been privatised and is run by Care UK, whose one-time chairman – and his wife – donated to the Tory party and to Lansley’s private office. It was portrayed purely as an “NHS” failure. Nor was it mentioned that Jeremy Hunt was warned years ago that NHS 111 was not “fit for purpose”, that its launch should be postponed and not rushed as it was, and that the downgrading of the call handlers from clinical to lay staff was dangerous.
Similarly, every time there is a nursing home scandal such as Winterbourne View, headlines warn of “NHS failure”, despite most of them being in private hands. This is misleading the public to unfairly think the NHS is failing, when it is actually the privatised side that is letting down patients. The NHS is failing but only because of the lack of investment by this government – the lowest in the G7 – and the wasteful commercialisation.
Meanwhile the Health Minister is engaged in a confrontation with doctors to force them to work Saturdays as normal days. We have a 7-day service for emergencies and this is not changing. Jeremy Hunt wants to force a 6-day routine service, without increasing staffing or resources. It is an absurd measure, which is causing almost universal indignation, and fresh rounds of strikes which are supported by the public.
Repeal of the 2012 Act
The NHS (Reinstatement) Bill is a bill to repeal Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. One crucial point of that bill was to remove the Secretary of State for Health’s responsibility to provide or secure health services. Now no longer does the government – or anybody else – have a legal duty to provide hospital services throughout England. That 2012 bill was not opposed in Parliament.
Will the Reinstatement bill get support in Parliament? Peter Roderick, the promoter of the bill with Allyson Pollock, is not optimistic; he writes in the London Review of Books, December 2015: “The question now is whether Labour under Corbyn will end its support for the market in the NHS and get behind the bill. The shadow health minister, Heidi Alexander, is still finding her feet, but the signs are not good. Unlike McDonnell, she has not brought in new political advisers. She is being advised by those who advised Andy Burnham, and judging from a meeting I had with her very recently New Labour thinking on the NHS is for now still very much in place. Ross McKibbin, writing in the LRB of 8 October, expected Corbyn’s leadership to end in tears. If that turns out to be the case, one reason may well be that Corbyn just wasn’t able to translate the support he has in the party into parliamentary backing.”
The will to keep a National Health Service
There is worry and agitation in the country about the NHS, with various movements organising protests. But the majority of MPs and practically all of the media support privatisation. The reforms are introduced in ways that make them incomprehensible to the public, in order to avoid the possibility of any dangerous ‘extra-parliamentary’ actions. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is virtually impenetrable; the Wikipedia entry for it, which echoes many critical commentators, says that the Act “removed responsibility for the health of citizens from the Secretary of State for Health, which the post had carried since the inception of the NHS in 1948.” But the public would be utterly unable to understand this if they looked at the Act itself, which states:
“Secretary of State’s duty to promote comprehensive health service:
(1) The Secretary of State must continue the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service designed to secure improvement—
(a) in the physical and mental health of the people of England, and
(b) in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of physical and mental illness.”
You have to realize that the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Health now is to ‘promote’ a comprehensive health service, not to provide one. This seemingly innocuous change in vocabulary is designed to permit privatization; it is also designed to be incomprehensible. Add to this the intricate system of financing or ‘commissioning’ services, and the public is utterly lost. Those with an understanding of the matter have not enough political clout to make themselves heard. Jeremy Corbyn is virtually on his own in Parliament, and cannot do enough.
BBC playing at War
The public is being manipulated on another front, by the BBC. The BBC announcers routinely talk about ‘Russian aggression’ and ‘Putin’s aggressive designs’ as if they were facts. On 3 February BBC2 showed ‘World War Three—Inside the War Room”, a mock documentary based on a Russian attack on the Baltic States leading to a nuclear conflagration. The Daily Telegraph described it as follows: “World War Three: Inside the War Room convenes a war cabinet of former military and diplomatic figures to react to a hypothetical but all too plausible confrontation in Eastern Europe, given Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.” The Daily Mail explains: “The tension builds and the doomsday scenario reaches its climax as the war room hears that Putin has ordered London to be nuked next.”
The programme is supposed to be ‘a warning to Russia’ not to invade the Baltic States, even in the event of attacks on Russians living there. The programme is also a piece of propaganda made to influence British opinion against Russia. Nowhere is the truth said, that Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian and that it was only attached to Ukraine as an administrative measure, in 1954. A referendum on 16 March 2014 gave support to what was in effect a reunification.
20 000 Russian soldiers were present in Crimea legally at the time. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea, and no one with any sense would want to deprive a country of its fleet. It was a matter of survival for Russia that Crimea did not become embroiled in the civil war that rages in Ukraine thanks to EU and US interference and regime change policies. The BBC mock documentary of course did not mention any of this, nor did it mention the commitment given to Russia at the time of the dismantling of the Soviet Union that NATO would not encroach on Russia’s sphere of influence. Now Russia is entirely surrounded by NATO countries on its Western borders.
As with the NHS, the public is kept misinformed, and ‘softened up’ to accept what will eventually appear as ‘inevitable’.