Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Privatising the NHS

Have you heard of polyclinics? These are the future of primary healthcare in the UK according to Lord Darzi who has been 'asked' by the government to look at GP provision. Polyclinics are, allegedly,bigger and better than GP practices. They will be able to offer more 'services' to patients, or should that be customers? You see the plan is that these polyclinics will be run by Virgin Health or Tescos. Perhaps you will be able to buy some groceries whist you see the nurse, or book a flight after your consultation.

Sounds convenient? Not to me. Not only does this mean a further centralisation of NHS services, making them more remote from the sick and elderly, but it means the private sector getting a dirty great big foot in the door. Call me old fashioned but when I go to see the doctor, I want to see the doctor, not simpering staff in Virgin uniforms trying to sell me health insurance and offering discounts on rail fares.

But that is not the most important point. In the USA, where healthcare is privatised, medical treatment is the biggest single cause of bankruptcy. Ever seen Sicko, the film by Michael Moore? If not you should. Yes, like his other documentaries its flawed, but the central message is entirely accurate - people die because they can't afford healthcare in one of the world's richest countries, and that's obscene, and unnecessary. And they die because healthcare is privatised.

There will no doubt be some who don't believe that could happen here. But I'm not one of them. Giant corporations like United Health want to get their hands on our NHS. If they do, costs will rise and money we spend on healthcare will go to provide profits for shareholders and the rich instead of providing medical treatment for the likes of you and me.

The government knows that private sector companies can't compete with a well run public sector that doesn't have to make a profit. That is why they are they have dreamed up 'patient choice' and are giving the likes of Virgin and Tesco contracts when it comes to running polyclinics - because they are ideologically committed to privatisation. It not too late to stop this from happening. Support you local GP and lobby your Primary Care Trust (PCT). If New Labour succeed in their privatisation plans we should all be very worried about the future. Just don't get sick.

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