The Independent London Newspaper
24th May 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: As the Coalition continue to pull the levers, the battle is on to save our ailing NHS from the vultures

    Author Owen Jones has warned that private companies are ready to move in

    Published: 7 February, 2013

    VULTURES are flying over Whittington Hospital.

    Radical author Owen Jones (click here for full story) believes private companies are hovering to gobble up abandoned services.

    There is another possible predator overhead – University College London Hospital.

    Officially, one cannot expect UCLH to publicly air its interest but as a foundation hospital trust – a financially independent body – it could well benefit from a “take-over”.

    When the idea of foundation trusts was first flown by New Labour around eight years ago  it drew fierce criticism from MPs and health specialists, particularly MP Frank Dobson, who argued that it would lead to a fragmentation of the NHS with the richer and better equipped trusts trying to hoover up certain services while centralising highly specialised ones.

    “We need co-operation in the NHS not competition,” warned Dobson.

    Coalition strategists have always denied their new Act will lead to a fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS but the trend in that direction is becoming every clearer.

    At one level, campaigners may see the Whittington board members as their enemy because they are blindly  trying to make up for a massive shortfall in funding with the sale of precious facilities and land backed up by cuts in beds and staff.

    They warn there is no alternative. If the shortfall cannot be found, someone else will take over.

    But the real enemy pulling the levers is the Coalition government which is easing the way for private companies – often enmeshed with global giants in the health business – to start nibbling away at the NHS.

    Medical circles believe the NHS will not survive for more than a few years if the present slide continues.

    Strategists like Lord Keogh, medical director of the NHS, are in favour of a contracting service but one with better specialised services.

    Since the 1990s critics have complained about the NHS as being too big a beast. Fewer but better hospitals are needed.  Too many in London, they said. We, along with campaigners, fought to save the threatened University College Hospital. Who would say today that its services are redundant?

    Yes, vultures have been hovering over the NHS since the days of Thatcherism.

    In the 1980s they hovered over the state-owned corporations that ran our telephone, rail, electricity and gas industries, deriding them as inefficient and a drain on the economy.

    A similar “propaganda” war is, in a sense, being orchestrated against the National Health Service.  

    Frank Dobson was right to warn of a further backlash with the publication this week of the findings of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital inquiry.   

    The battle to save the NHS is on.