The Health and Social Care Act has now become law. The Government’s plans to create an NHS that will look more like an nH$ will now go ahead: there will be less ‘National’ as budgets are split into local clinical commissioning groups and a greater focus on making profit. Let us hope the H for health remains at the centre, but I worry.
And let us not forget this law has been made by the Government when there was no mention of it in the Coalition Agreement and from a Prime Minister who specifically said there would be no top down reorganisation of the NHS on his watch. The Government also refused to publish the risk register despite losing an appeal to the (Freedom of) Information Commissioner. I believe this will be a deeply unpopular change as people observe the NHS sliding stealthily into privatisation where profit rather than community health will be the measure of success.
Meanwhile the Government is also planning to ‘open up the market’ in probation and police services (privatise in other words). On Tuesday this week, the Ministry of Justice published its plans for the future of probation services and whilst some areas were ruled out being open to competition (such as advice to courts) many other areas will become subject to such competition under European Union rules. There are warm words in the white paper about social enterprises and charities taking over such services but I think we can all be sure that it will be large commercial organisations who will win the lion’s share of this new business. Profit will become the motivation rather than seeking to ensure that there is less crime and reoffending in our communities.
And a few weeks ago, West Midlands and Surrey police services published an invitation to commercial organisations to bid to become strategic partners. Thames Valley police are also possibly involved as this matter proceeds. Some politicians and managers in the police will try to persuade you that this all about innovation and efficiency – and not about cuts and profits. But what do you think: will we be having police ‘costables’ patrolling our streets soon? Will decisions about which crimes to investigate or prevent be based upon which are more profitable rather which result in less harm to local people? I am worried. Perhaps you are too.
So what is to be done about our local police, probation and health services? Firstly I would invite everyone who reads this letter to keep their eyes and ears open. Please let me know if you come across instances where you think that profit and private sector interests are getting in the way of good public service. You may even wish to write to this paper to let us all know.
And secondly, I would ask you to start thinking now about how you might cast your vote on November 15 this year. On this date you will have the chance to vote for the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner. This is a new position and replaces the local police authority. Will you want to vote for someone who is very keen on privatisation and ‘opening up the market’ in police and justice services? Or will you want to vote for someone who is very worried and sceptical about the ‘benefits’ that outsourcing may bring? November 15 will be your opportunity to register your vote against rampant privatisation of public services.
Please make a date in your diary now.
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