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NHS: He who pays the Privateer’s Peer

Image credit: <a href="http://www.123rf.com/aspect3d">aspect3d / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Former Labour Health Minister Lord Warner’s call for everyone to pay £10 a month fees to use the NHS got very wide press coverage. The Mail, Telegraph, Times, Guardian and Independent wrote 500-odd-word stories on Warner’s charge-for-the-NHS call.

The Mirror, Sun and other tabloids chipped in with 200-word pieces on Warner’s fees, including his extra demand that patients pay an extra £20 a night for hospital stays. But for all the thousands of words, not one paper reported the basic facts of the story.

We journalists are supposed to all want to be like Woodward and Bernstein, who uncovered the Watergate conspiracy by following one piece of advice – “follow the money.” Yet no journalist followed Lord Warner’s money.

It’s not as if you need to look that hard to chase this cash. Lord Warner made his call for NHS fees in what the newspapers called “a report for think tank Reform.” A quick check of the Register of Lords’ Interests shows that Warner was a paid spokesman for a health firm called Synlab, which is chasing NHS contracts.

A quick check of Reform’s accounts shows that it is funded by a host of NHS privatisers. So the real story is – private health spokesman Lord Warner calls for NHS charges in pamphlet funded by private health firms.

All the private health firms want to make the NHS more like themselves – by forcing the NHS to make charges, they can blur the difference between themselves and the NHS. In this way they can either take over more of the NHS, or compete directly with the NHS . Or do both – typically health firms want to run some NHS services using taxpayers’ cash, and use their position in NHS services to charge better-off patients for “extra” or “enhanced” services.

So the fact that BMI Healthcare is one of Reform’s funders should have rung bells in journalists’ heads. BMI runs private hospitals, but also treats NHS patients. In 2012, even Tory Health Minister Ann Milton had to attack BMI for deliberately delaying operations on its NHS patients to force them to go private. BMI has every reason to want NHS charges. Other private firms funding Reform include Serco, which runs poorly performing health services for the NHS, Sodexo, which runs privatised NHS cleaning and catering, McKesson, which runs NHS computer systems and all-purpose crap privatiser G4S.

Warner’s pamphlet for Reform is quite open about creating more opportunities for the private firms that funded the publication. Warner calls for “private investment in a regenerated and stronger primary care sector.” He says the government should be “debunking the myths that, somehow, competition is incompatible with integration and that public provision is always superior to private.

In a pamphlet funded by BMI Healthcare, Serco and Sodexo, Lord Warner demands people stop loving the NHS and start admiring private companies like BMI Healthcare, Serco and Sodexo instead. He recommends NHS trusts should start “income-generating activities” like “provision of private funded services not available on the NHS, revenue-generating commercial developments on hospital sites and sale of approved healthcare product.

He wants the NHS to act as a salesman for the private health industry, flogging medicines like a snake oil salesman. Most shockingly, Warner recommends “removing services from the NHS altogether.” He wants to generate more income for his private health pals by, for example, stopping the NHS doing IVF, or not allowing NHS hospitals to fix botched cosmetic surgery.

In order to report this naked pro-privatisation propaganda, journalists would have to undertake the advanced investigative technique of reading the pamphlet they were writing about.

Lord Warner likes making private money from the public sector. When he was health secretary, Lord Warner commissioned a businessman called Lord Carter to review NHS pathology services. The “Carter review” recommended private firms take over hospital “path labs” .

This was disastrous for the NHS. One major ‘path lab‘, run by Serco with Kings and St Thomas’s hospital in London, has been marred by poor performance.

Worse, the Competition Commission are now investigating NHS attempts to reorganise labs.

The NHS was previously untouched by the Competition Commission, which only regulates private firms. But by involving private firms, NHS Trusts have laid themselves open to competition and monopoly rules. The NHS’s traditional strength, it’s co-operative, collective approach, is now open to legal challenge.

The law means that the operation of a market is more important than operations on patients.

But one person has done well out of path lab privatisation – Lord Warner. His new employer, Synlab, is a German company which wants to run NHS pathology labs. The NHS gets chaos and poor performance. Lord Warner got a job.

Like other new Labour ex-ministers including Alan Milburn, Lord Warner has a history of getting jobs with private health firms that profit from the privatisation schemes he launched in office.

That scandal, not Warner’s propaganda for NHS privatisers, is the real story. But it is a story that every single national newspaper missed yet again.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star

Image credit: aspect3d / 123RF Stock Photo

13 Comments

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    its whot Unum have been waiting for the selling of the nhs and the medical records jeff3

  2. Mark Webster says:

    For those with strong views on this issue there is a petition with the aim of expeling Lord Warner from the Labour party. It won’t succeed of course but at least you get a brief frisson from expressing your anger.

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-labour-party-leader-ed-miliband-expel-lord-warner-from-the-labour-party

  3. Robert says:

    Why expel him bet a pound to a penny Miliband will be thinking yes why not great idea.

  4. John Reid says:

    Mark you suggest that someone suggest paying for something and they should be expelled for the party,

    I recall a labour policy in the 70’s the closed shop, basically saying that all workers had to join ,the union, or be sacked,and then not get unemployment benefit, well as we all have to pay subs for a union, can I suggest that anyone in labour who supported the closed shop, be expelled from the party ,for suggesting that people had to pay to , be in a compulsory union,

  5. Mark Webster says:

    John,I agree that everyone in the LP should be able to freely expess and argue their case. But what I find deeply unhelpful is when someone with a very high profile appears to be actively working against the interest of the party and its supporters. Do all those knocking on doors to drum up election support (“NHS safe with us”) really want the media to be simultaneously broadcasting the opposite message distilled from this report (“NHS not safe with us”). Not just confusing to the potential voter but annoying to those knocking on doors trying to get Labour back in power.

    I have read the report (briefly) and whilst it clearly details the issues facing the NHS and suggests a number of good measures (more community care) there is a very clear privatisation/free-market agenda behind the report. This is not my perception but is overtly expressed in phrases such as the following:-

    (Pg 7. point 6.) “End the phoney arguments about who provides services” {my itallics}

    This to me is an appauling statement as it suggests that the author(s) can find no argument that favours public provision over private. The arguments over public/private provision are not in many peoples view “phoney” they are absolutely critical.

    (page 13.) “Throughout the year there would be tailored flows of membership information about personal health issues, together with details of approved or kite-marked telecare and telehealth products that would help people meet their own care using their own resources. ” {my itallics}

    This couldn’t be any clearer; the NHS will be used as a marketing channel for all manor of products.

    There is also an a-priori assumptiion that any increase over current NHS spend can not be via taxation. This seems to be an ideological viewpoint from which the “poll tax” membershhip fee and “hotel” overnigght fees etc.

    It seems to me that such a report could only be construed by someone who wishes to see an increasing level of NHS privatisation and deeper penetration by health companies for new revenue streams.

    Well – maybe that is Labour Policy – but I think he’d be more at home on the other side. Or should we just post this report out to all potential voters ?

  6. John reid says:

    Saying the NHS is safe with us, by the way outside income tax, we’d like those who feel they’ll need it should commit £10′ be it, bonds, a one off or national insurance, rather than income tax, isn’t saying , we’re going to ruin, the NHS, infact suggesting that people can pay more to it, outside income tax, would suggest we’re going to be spending more, regarding over night fees, when Labour saved the NHS in 1997′ we suggested that people pay for their own meals while staying there, it’s not a poll tax, as no one os forcing anyone to pay. It’s not privatisation,unless it was a private company ,that charged everyone £1000s a year, all that happening is finding cheaper ways ecenomically to run things.

  7. Rod says:

    @Mark

    If you want to learn about Labour’s shameful record on NHS privatisation read Prof. Allyson Pollock’s ‘NHS plc’ and Profs. Leys and Player’s ‘The Plot Against the NHS’.

    The revelations are so shocking I felt there was no option other than to resign from the Labour Party (I started voting Labour in the Wilson era).

    I’m now looking forward to campaigning against Labour in the 2015 general election. And I will campaign relentlessly and resolutely.

  8. Robert says:

    I would not campaign against labour but I would not vote for them either, the simple fact both labour and the Tories see the private sector as a means to get cheaper medical care, look at labour attempts to get cheap labour for cleaning.

    My laughter at being told I was not expecting a baby went into the press after a scan was sent to Spain came back saying I was fine and no sign of being pregnant . The scan was to see if I had damaged my spinal cord in an accident, I had to then pay to have another scan and then have a consultant read it, turned out I had slipped three discs one had slipped into the spinal cord.

    The next time I went down to have an operation to try and push the discs back in, the NHS decided to pay BUPA to carry out the operation, because of an out break of MRSA at the hospital, after the operation I was transferred back to the NHS hospital where I contracted MRSA, you could not make it up.

    But we all know the pressure on the NHS by the EU to allow them and the Americans entry into the health care for god sake Cardiff University is home to UNUM Provident and the chap that set up Labour’s welfare was Mansell Alyward now a director of the company says it all really.

    1. jeffrey davies says:

      Robert you hit the nail on the head Unum yet they waiting for that grand day they sell off the medical records sorry atos crapita has these already and the nhs yet no ones shouting jeff3

    2. Rod says:

      I had to laugh the other day when a Labour numpty defended of Lord Warner on the radio.

      The numpty said: “But he [Lord Warner] was a Labour health minister – how can he not love the NHS?”

      And it now seems Andy Burnham is the best hope for the NHS. But only five years ago Burnham opened the NHS to the international healthcare market with his NHS Global project.

      I thought Labour were going to win in 2015 but now I’m not so sure. The Labour Party no longer has a purpose beyond supporting Tory policies and hoping nobody notices. And with Labour opting to dump the unions it’s difficult to see how a glorified think-tank for middle-class careerists can win in 2020.

      Looks like the End of Days for Labour.

  9. Mark Webster says:

    @ gentlemen please !

    I’ve just joined the Labour party. Spurred into action by the wanton wrecklessness of IDS and Lord Fraud et al.
    Look how much damage they’ve done in 4 years, do you really want another 5 ?
    If there was a more radical option I’d take it, but it’s a binary choice. Swivel-eyed neo liberal lunatics OR (hopefully-not-so-new)Labour).

    Why don’t you (presumably Old timers) join the local party and try to remind them what socialism is ?

    1. Rod says:

      @ Mark W
      Rejoin? No thanks, my membership expired eight days ago.

      As for the “binary choice”, the only choice I’ve noticed is a choice between two parties, both supporting austerity, military intervention and the EU.

      And Labour won’t even offer a vote on leaving the austerity-enforcing, EU disaster zone. Even Tony Benn voted for No2EU – as described in the final volume of his diaries, A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine.

      There are plenty of very worthwhile forms of activism available. No need to support the policy platform offered by the LibLabCon.

    2. Robert says:

      God not another Miliband lover, Freud is labour he was brought in by Blair, he was the mouth piece for Labour, Mansell Alyward who is a UNUM Provident director was Labour architect of the welfare reforms, check him out Professor Mansell Alward Cardiff University he use to run the DWP.

      yes I’m an old timer in labour 46 years, join my local party interesting that would make seven of us, no thanks I cannot take the pressure or heart attack laughing.

      But hell I can tell you now within a five or six years of being in labour going to meeting you will think to your self I may as well join the Tories or the liberals then this shower.

      Good luck to you I had 46 years and that is a life time of boredom knocking on doors and shoving leaflets through doors for nothing.

      I will be voting labour in Wales they do have some socialism in them, but at the next general election I will be voting UKIP, not because I want them to win, I have to vote and they are the only party left which may scare the others.

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