Privatising hospitals. It’s gonna work wonders, isn’t it?

November 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Circle Health took over a hospital recently. Basically a privatised NHS hospital. Everything is cool though, we’re told. It’ll be more efficient, nobody will lose out they said.

Well, predictably, guess what

[Circle Holdings] had been in negotiations with the government for two years over the takeover of Hinchingbrooke hospital; as the preferred bidder, it expected to be successful. In its document [share prospectus], the company reveals its aspiration to take over further hospitals but also spells out the risks to patients. It says: “As well as the establishment of further independent hospitals, Circle intends to significantly expand its NHS business.

“Circle’s growth has placed, and its anticipated growth will continue to place, a strain on its managerial, administrative, operational, financial, information technology and other resources and could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients.”

That second paragraph is just wonderful, isn’t it?

h/t @DickMandrake

It’s not a privatisation because the NHS are still the landlords

November 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The Guardian

A private company, listed on the stock market, has been given the right to deliver a full range of hospital services for the first time in the history of the NHS, reigniting a debate about the use of business in the health sector.

Circle Healthcare, a John Lewis-style partnership valued at around £120m, will manage the debt-laden Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, from February after the government signed off on a decade-long contract on Wednesday.

For fucks sake, people. Calm down. It’s not a privatisation. Can’t you people see that?

The takeover is not considered a full privatisation as the buildings will remain in public hands and the employees retain their pay and pension on existing terms.

It’s not a privatisation because the NHS will still own the building. *rolls eyes*.

Seriously though, how can anyone claim this is not a privatisation? The building remains in the hands of the NHS, so the NHS becomes the landlord. *Everything* else is down to Circle.

The current staff stay on their existing pay and pension terms, but what about new staff taken on? Will they be on contracts the same as NHS staff? What about when Circle decide they don’t want existing staff on NHS terms? They’ll find a way of getting people to re-apply for their existing jobs on different contracts.

Having said all that, as long as there are no links between Circle and the Tories… what? oh…

As Labour MP Jamie Reed tweeted last night:

Former Tory Health team member Mark Simmonds MP is also a paid strategic advisor with Circle. Coincidence?

And then added:

Two of Circle’s major shareholders are Tory Party donors. Coincidence?

In fact, emails released to the Guardian (by SpinWatch) in July this year showed Circle was part of a lobby group that took the NHS regulator to expensive gala dinners.

Privaatisation started quietly with a little contract here and a little outsourcing there, this though, is the real deal.

Getting fleeced

April 7th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Immigration detention centres. Not the nicest of places. The people in there are generally pennyless and have a big need to talk to solicitors and stuff.

So what does the ever so intelligent people who run the private companies think up for their detention centres? A new telephone system

The trial at Tinsley House detention centre, near Gatwick airport, is run by Global Comms & Consulting Ltd (GCC), which specialises in secure telecommunications services to major government agencies and multinational companies. As a result, detainees will not be able to call free numbers and will pay significantly higher rates to call their family and solicitors. All calls will also be recorded, monitored and disrupted when necessary by the immigration authorities and/or the immigration prison’s management.

When a detainee arrives at the centre, they have their own phone taken from them and issued with one from the centre. These phones are described as ‘crap’ and cut out ‘after a few seconds’.

Along with the phone the detainee is also given a phone card…

Detainees will be given a Call4Five card when they are admitted in to detention. Call4Five, owned and operated by GCC, allows users to dial any UK or international number from any phone for “five precious minutes,” using a special code provided on a scratch voucher.

GCC claims its Call4Five cards are “a good deal.” However, a voucher of five minutes for international calls (10 for UK calls) costs £2.50 plus VAT. This works out at 60p and 30p per minute respectively, which is significantly more expensive than using pre-paid phone cards or even normal mobile phones.

The new system also means that detainees will be charged higher rates for dialling 0845 numbers and will not be able to call free 0800 numbers without buying credit, for example to use pre-paid phone cards provided by visitors groups or to call their solicitors and other support organisations that provide a free phone service for those who do not have credit on their phones.

What a lovely bunch of people run these services, eh?

How to destroy the NHS: A step by step guide

February 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

From Stephen Law

Suppose I am very very rich, and very very selfish. The NHS annoys me intensely. It costs lots in tax revenue to run, and being very rich, I pay proportionately more of my income on it, and of course far more in terms of hard cash, then almost anyone else. I also resent the fact that my business empire is unable to cash in on providing the services that people would buy from my private businesses if the NHS was not there.

BUT, the public loves the NHS, even many Tories are fond of it, and to propose scrapping it would provoke howls of outrage. Plus there’s no evidence I can marshal that the public would get a better service if it were provided by the private sector – rather the opposite in fact.

What would I do? Here’s what I would do.

First, I’d ensure a team of expert PR run the Tory party – people adept at twisting facts, spinning, and indeed telling bare face lies and getting away with it. And I’d have my private health companies etc. fund them generously.

Next, once elected, I’d get them to introduce phase one: the introduction of a market system in which GP’s buy services from NHS hospitals, or anyone else, based on variable price, etc. This can still be called “NHS” because it’s still free at the point of use. This would all be justified by lies about how the evidence shows it’s more efficient, etc.

Read the rest.

Self serving to customer serving

February 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Following on from a previous post today on the subject of nationalisation/privatisation, 21st Century Fix

[L]et’s change the focus please from public versus private to that of identifying and changing the cultures of the self-serving to customer-serving – wherever they may find themselves.

private good, public bad

February 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Stephen Law on the dirty word ‘nationalisation’

…for some industries, that “competition” [that privatisation brings] looks largely notional. In the case of the railways and power companies, for example. And we all know that the government puts much more into running the railways now than it did when it was nationalized. And it had to step in when Railtrack went bust. The service remains an expensive disaster for consumers. So much for efficiency. etc.

When this ongoing disaster is pointed out, private ownership is defended on the grounds that the privatizations was mishandled, or done in the wrong sort of way, or the companies run badly, whatever. When publicly run industries don’t fare well, on the other hand, well that’s just because they are publicly, run, isn’t it, rather than run in the wrong sort of way? That must be true, mustn’t it? Because as we all know, “private good, public bad”.

My question is, why has it become the case that even to raise the suggestion that, say, the railways should renationalized is now unthinkable for most people? Why, when people consider how the problems might be fixed, does that option never even get considered? Is it really because the arguments and evidence for private ownership are so very good? (if so, why are so many other successful railways either state run or primarily state owned?)

On the privatised rail network

January 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Alex Gabriel at Political Promise has a sort-of-rant about the trains. I’m not sure how accurate the figures are Alex uses but they sound about right…

If Arriva run the train you need and you’d rather travel with Virgin, tough. Unlike buying most other things, we don’t get to choose the superior brand. The companies aren’t really competing, either, because we have to travel with whichever one has trains at the right time. They might as well have the monopoly that the Conservatives promised they’d take from British Rail, because there’s no real choice of service involved: we board the train irrespective of how good or bad it is, or else we can’t make our journey.

The same applies to public transport in general. Fields, lakes and mountains surround my hometown, and when last I checked it cost £10 for the twenty minute journey to the next town. Long distance bus companies which compete for better prices will take you from Manchester to London for half that, but local companies – like rail firms – can be as exploitative as they like because people who use them have no choice.

They’re not accountable, efficient or cheap, but don’t the train companies at least strengthen the economy with their profits? Well, no. Salford University published a paper which found that in 2002-3, taxpayers paid subsidies of £1.34bn to prop up the rail industry. That’s right – we’re actually paying them to rip us off, and they wouldn’t be profitable if we didn’t.

When British Rail existed, it received £1.07bn of the same subsidies, so ironically train travel is more tax-funded now than then. National Rail even gets £20bn a year from general taxation to keep it going. The Thatcherites said not to fund unprofitable industries with public money, but that’s exactly the situation we’re in – except with all privatisation’s downsides and none of its benefits.

Sometimes there is no market and trying to create one just doesn’t work.

Tory cuts & privatisation: Just like the good old days

July 17th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

The Guardian

A government efficiency drive aimed at slashing spending in town halls and boosting productivity in the health service is likely to deliver billions of pounds of new business for private companies, the Guardian has learned.

Outsourcing firms are preparing for a bonanza of local authority contracts to provide everything from bin men to back office bureaucrats and have reported a doubling in the number of deals on offer this year. Private health companies are also expecting to earn billions of pounds from the planned overhaul of the NHS in which GPs would take over responsibility for spending £70bn.

Executives at Capita, the UK’s largest outsourcing firm, said the number of opportunities for local authority contracts has already doubled this year and they see the healthcare market as “vast and potentially lucrative”.

Richard Marchant, head of local government strategic partnerships at Capita, an FTSE-100 company which already works for councils in Harrow, Swindon, Southampton and Sheffield, said: “A major problem for the public sector is, we feel, a significant opportunity for us. Opportunities are at their highest level in two to three years. This year we have probably seen a 100% increase in opportunities [compared with 2009] and I suspect we will see another 50% increase in the following year.”

The private companies are rubbing their hands together, then. The money to pay for these services still has to come from somewhere, and at the end of the day it’s us. Me and you. The taxpayer. We either pay it as a tax or direct to the supplying company. Or more likely, in taxes that then get paid to a private company that’ll provide an inferior service that’ll seem cheaper to begin with but will sooner or later cost a fuck load more than expected. PFI anyone? (New Labour may have enjoyed all the off the balance sheet perks of the scam, but they were a Tory idea.)

First off, and I’ve probably said it before, why can’t a local government provide services as cheaply as a private contractor seemingly can? I understand economies of scale and all that jazz, which local governments and councils should able to achieve if they get their shit together work together as some sort of buying union. But just as local governments don’t generally have the buying power of these big companies that take on the contract, they also don’t have the shareholders to look after either.

A lot of these companies that provide public services after privatisation or are contracted out are foreign, too*. This means not only are profits being given out that could instead have meant the service could be provided cheaper or more of it even, but the profits are going abroad and helping to keep another nations economy in the black.

What is needed is for councils to get together and sort their shit out rather than at the first sign of trouble start flogging stuff off and handing out the contracts.

*I am prepared to be shot down in flames at this statement, but even if ‘a lot of’ is a little er, generous, the point remains.

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