Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Labour and NHS privatisation

The latest New Labour steps towards a more market-driven NHS merit this report in today’s Financial Times:

‘Senior executives from some of Britain's biggest companies are to join the boards of foundation hospitals to help them prepare for a newmarket-based health service.

‘Tony Blair will host a seminar today with health managers and representatives from companies including Tesco, Lloyds TSB, GlaxoSmith-Kline, Unilever and Smiths Group, under a scheme to make foundation hospitals with budgets of up to £500m more commercially-minded.

‘Downing Street stressed the initiative would not mean the private sector taking over or bailing out the National Health Service, even if businessmen joined the trusts as board directors.’

Now, far be it from me to be cynical about these things. But isn’t GSK a giant pharmaceutical company that counts the NHS as a major client? How then can it be relied upon to approach these management reponsibilities with suitable disinterest?

And isn’t Tesco a major purveyor of the sort of sugar- and fat-laden processed foods that cause health problems for so many? Come to that, it's a fair bet that they are Britain's largest retailer of tobacco products. Not exactly NHS-friendly, that.

Incidentally, Tony Woodley of the TGWU is quoted as suggesting that this move is designed to soften up the path for privatisation. The more New Labour insists it isn’t, the more I am inclined to believe him.

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