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Health & Care Bill a smokescreen for further NHS privatisation, union charges

THE government has been accused of using the pandemic as a smokescreen to push through a new health Bill that will open the floodgates for more NHS privatisation.

The union Unite says that the Covid-19 pandemic is providing extra cover for the government to press ahead with dismantling Britain’s most cherished public service.

The Health & Care Bill was launched in the Commons in July and its third reading is due in October.

Unite, which has 100,000 members working in the NHS, says it is a “recipe for more privatisation and cronyism in England, with an adverse impact for patients as waiting lists for treatments continue to soar.”

Estimates of the level of privatisation of the NHS in 2018-9 ranged from 7 to 22 per cent, depending on whether services such as pharmacies were included.

Even the lower figure represents the transfer of £9.2 billion from the NHS budget into privateers’ pockets, the union says.

Unite says the process will be accelerated under the new legislation.

National officer for health Jackie Williams said: “The NHS is our greatest achievement, and, after a decade of underfunding and coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, this Bill is not the prescription we need.

“Instead of helping our NHS, this Bill invites private companies to make further inroads into it, to the detriment of patients and workers and gives the Secretary of State new powers to interfere in the work of health professionals.

“This Bill is deeply flawed and creates pathways for health systems that are based on models developed by the private insurance industry in the United States and elsewhere, with profit as the key priority. 

“Such an approach would undermine the universal and patient-driven service that we have all cherished since the NHS’s formation in 1948.

“The proposed legislation is a Trojan horse for more privatisation, cronyism, NHS cuts and a licence for politicians to run down and sell off the NHS.

“Attempting to drive this through while we are still in the middle of a pandemic, with an estimated 5.4 million on the waiting lists in England and vacancies in the health service running at an estimated 90,000, is a disgrace.”

The Department of Health & Social Care has been contacted for comment.

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