Since the election a “Tory cuts” rhetoric has been gushing from some of the Left ‘socialist’ parties and it’s already becoming wearing – not least since it neglects to mention that so much ‘reform’ was already implemented by The Labour Party, or that we are going through a fundamental crisis of capitalism, not a debate of party political different approaches to the economy. Lest we forget Labour, who bailed out the banks with billions of pounds of public money, was only suggesting to delay the cuts after all. Who knows how quickly the axe would have come down if they’d won another term?
Worse still, even things that are poised to be done differently under the Con-Dem coalition than under Labour, such as support for widespread use GP consortia in the Coalition’s new NHS White Paper, are being talked about by unions like Unite as if they were something brand new. But fundholding by GP surgeries was introduced into the NHS of the 1990s under a previous Conservative government. Is there no memory of this that we could learn from? Plus the Labour alternatives between then and now have included direct privatisation of services which would then be procured by the NHS as clearly evidenced here in The Times (2006). This hardly seems better.
As well as resurrecting and spreading the policy of GP Fund-holding, the future of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts was being questioned several years back by the Dept of Health under Labour. Add to this that the move to Foundation Hospitals was already in full swing, it surely can’t be such a big shock to the unions that this is expanding now. We can’t help feeling once again that this is being presented as “look what’s happening now the Tories are in again, shock-horror”, something that only acts to rose-tint the antics of the last Labour government.
The main point of all this being, that while it is necessary to oppose the effects of the cuts, this should definitely not be about Labour being better than the Con-Dems!
Plus, while the cuts will fall heavily on union members (and many more non-union members) in the NHS and elsewhere, it’s not just workers in the public sector who will suffer. From a patients’ perspective, the dangers of GP fund-holding are potentially dire. How bad may depend on how much the funds are squeezed. This already happened in dentistry and many people can’t find an NHS dentist as a result. So called ‘cream-skimming’ of low cost patients vs. high cost ones by getting the more ill patients off GP lists in order to make more profit may not have happened much when it was first introduced (from 1989). But that’s probably because there was not enough time for many takeovers by private companies only looking for profit and less caring about the communities they were operating in. But we did see it with Labour’s introduction of privately-run Treatment Centres, who were paid up front for operations they wouldn’t necessarily carry out, and not only that left the main hospital Trusts to pick up the expensive ‘complex cases’ and botches. In Nottingham and Notts we have private operators such as Nations Healthcare and NEMS Community Benefit Services Limited (a company that is paid into by the Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Teaching Primary Care Trusts), running a variety of local health services, including out-of-hours and walk-in-centres, as well as at least one GP practice and hospital treatment centre.
A similar thing is already happening with ‘welfare reform’ where the private contractors who do the training or job placement have a huge incentive to ‘cream and park’. This means taking only the people who are most likely to result in a ‘Job Outcome’, to ensure the company will get its money under the ‘payment by results’ scheme, whilst keeping the rest at arms’ length. We can only imagine that the many people who are being, or have been, shoved off IB/ESA on to JSA will be prime candidates for this treatment.
There are more sorry stories from ‘social care reform’. It’s so sickening to see County Council Labour MPs like Vernon Coaker bleating on about care home and day centre closures by the now Tory-controlled authority, when Labour was happily trying to privatise them when in power, with several campaigns mounted by local people to stop the closures.
Obviously we need to fight against cuts and for continued access to the necessities of life, but not in a way that allows the ‘socialist’ parties and the Labour Party to score political points and mask the mess that a capitalist system has got us into.