Forest of Dean & Wye Valley


In A.Graham, Editorial on April 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The campaign to save our National Health Service has now moved into top gear. We now have more details of what the Government really has in store for us – and opposition is now mounting, both within the medical profession and outside.

The British Medical Association, at a special conference, voted against the Government’s “reforms” – and even the Liberal Democrats voted overwhelmingly against them at their Spring conference. Meanwhile the online petition group, “38 Degrees” is gaining more and more signatures every day from those opposing the sell-off of the NHS.

Initially, the Government tried to sell its plans for the break-up of the Health Service as merely a move to give GPs more power and influence over how the NHS should be run. Even that was bad enough – but the real motivation, the fragmentation and privatisation of the Service, was hidden in the detail.

As veteran Lib Dem politician, Shirley Williams, told The Observer in an interview: “I don’t know if they were deliberately hidden or just lost in the civil service flam – but because of this vast flow of material you would suddenly find a reference, for example, to ‘we are going to lift the cap on the number of private beds in NHS hospitals’ very deep in the impact memorandum” She realised it was a plan to dismantle the NHS and called the agenda one of “stealth privatisation”.

This from one of the Lib Dems most respected elders – a viewpoint that is totally opposed to that of the Government in which her party leader is Deputy Prime Minister. There were other points buried in the detail, too: such as the one that says provision of health services should be open to “any willing provider” – allowing the private health sector to swamp the NHS. An alien concept, competition on a massive scale, would be introduced into our Health Service, and at the end of the day the NHS would be reduced to a rump, picking up the pieces that the profit seeking private sector simply doesn’t want to deal with. And the idea that we, the public, would have any choice is a mere illusion.

Those who will benefit most won’t be the patients, or even those GPs who might think that they could gain a slice of the action. It will be the big health care corporations, many of them American-owned, who see this break-up of NHS as an opportunity to make millions. And neither will it save the Government money. Statistics show that the deeply flawed US health system costs a far higher percentage of that country’s national budget than does our NHS. And once they have gained control of the health system in Britain they will be able to name their own price.

Over the past fifty years or so, the NHS has become a treasured icon in our welfare society. It is the bedrock of a society that was pledged to look after its citizens “from the cradle to the grave”. It must be defended, for those of us who use it, and for the generations to come.

The Government, of course, wants to rush its legislation through Parliament as quickly as it can. It’s up to us all to stand up and defend the NHS before it’s too late.

And, as a starting point, those who haven’t already done so can log on to the 38 Degrees website:, and sign up!

The end of the NHS as we know it

Under Tory plans for the “reform” of our Health Service, the NHS as we know it would cease to exist. It would effectively become a National Health Market, according to Dr. Chris Cox.

He was speaking at a meeting called by the Forest of Dean Constituency Labour Party in Cinderford in March. The NHS, said Dr. Cox, was a complex organisation that had evolved over sixty years, but together it works.

The blueprint for proposed changes tell us that the service could in future be in the hands of “any willing provider” – meaning, in effect, the private sector. Ultimately there could be no NHS hospitals, and no NHS nurses or ancilliary staff. The whole of the NHS would be opened up to private companies. It would become a national health market – except that it would no longer be national.


Savings, of course, would have to be made – and such efficiency savings would mean that areas of treatment or care not deemed to be profitable by the new “providers” would be hived off. The duty of private companies is to make profits for their shareholders. That is their sole imperative.

He warned that “commercial confidentiality” would mean that we would not be allowed access to details of how such companies performed.

With the blurring of the lines between private and NHS care, we could find that those people fortunate enough to have money would be given priority, whilst those who wanted NHS treatment would have to join the back of the queue. And with this distortion in priorities, standards would inevitably deteriorate. “None of the professional health bodies worth their salt support these reforms,” declared Dr. Cox. And he mourned the passing of Community Health Councils which had once acted as watch dogs on health care matters in the communities they served.

Meanwhile, Di Martin warned of a significant impact on local provision. NHS Gloucestershire would be split up so that those who work in the service would be hived off to become a “social enterprise” – Gloucestershire Care Services. Effectively a social enterprise is a business, in competition with outside bodies. We have to become political, and fight for what we have, she declared.

Growing pains, in Tory Britain:

Johanna Baxter, from the union “Prospect” declared that we ought to thank Nick Clegg for successfully radicalising an entire generation of young people – though doubtless he will live to regret it.

The previous Government had done much for young people, from the “Sure Start” programme upwards. Many of these initiatives are now being scrapped, such as the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), or cut back – with the support of the Liberal Democrats. And the raising of student fees led to 50,000 young people marching through London. Now the Tories are drawing up a White Paper on the role of student unions. “Let’s not agonise, but organise!” she declared.

Bruce Hogan told us how he had grown up in the post-war era, when the national debt was far, far higher than it is now. But education was free, in schools, colleges and universities, and he went on to become a teacher.

We are now facing a “lost generation”, he said, just as we did in the 1980s. EMAs will no longer be available for the current intake seeking to enter further and higher education, whilst other job initiatives for young people are being abolished.

Tuition fees (which had first been introduced by a Labour Government) are now being raised astronomically to £9,000 – a sum that will merely compensate universities for the money that is being taken away from them by the Government.

He ended with an attack on the Liberal Democrats, whose candidates had pledged themselves to vote against any increase in student tuition fees – and then when they joined the coalition government went back on their word.

A lively discussion followed, with members of the audience criticising the previous, Labour, Government for introducing reforms in the structure of the NHS that effectively paved the way for Cameron’s plans for the virtual sell-out of the Health Service. Memories of the campaign to save the two community hospitals in the Forest of Dean, in 2006, were evoked.

But on one issue both the audience and the platform agreed. They would be supporting the rally against the cuts in London, on March 26.

  1. I support the Unison stance on this issue. That may seem strange when one considers that I run a social enterprise, but my interpretation and that of the government differ greatly. We already serve in the NHS supply chain and that is the role we advocate. Not replacing primary care services, replacing instead the profit maximising businesses which drive up costs of care.

    It is a case we can support with considerable authority from our work in overseas development for poverty alleviation. It’s a voice few care to hear.

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