Posts Tagged ‘Private Companies’
This morning we noticed that the water in the large pond on the allotments has suddenly become crystal-clear. Throughout the summer and autumn it has been as black and forbidding as Albert’s vest, now we can actually count even the fish which lurk near the bottom. They must feel like Mrs Biggins when her curtains come down for their annual wash. But why does it happen?
Anyway, our attention today has been focussed on our primary schools. One of my fellow hen-keepers, Bill, has a niece who has just qualified to teach, and tells me that the government is proposing to reduce the number of times that a trainee can re-sit the final exams. Judy had to take the test three times and under the new rules she would have been fired off after two. Given the lass clearly has an affinity with small children and knows her subjects well that would have been a pity. But here’s the rub, Michael Gove has specifically excluded academies and free schools – run by private companies or other organisations outside of County Council control – from the new proposal. Now just why would he do that?
Character assasination is not our thing but it has to be said that Michael Gove always reminds us of those ’upper-class twits’ which used to feature in Monty Python. That’s his funny side, but there is a darker one. His behaviour toward those schools that have decided to stay within the state system is nothing short of dictatorial.
A perfect example is provided by Downhills primary school in Tottenham. The school has been told that either Gove will make an “academy order” or the governors can vote to do so themselves “by no later than 27 January 2012 ”. The school, he has ordered, must be taken over by “a business, university or private school”. Whichever emerges they will be free to use unqualified teachers.
This year Downhills has passed the acceptable rating of 60% and is making good progress, despite being in a difficult catchment area. Labour MP David Lammy is a former pupil and he is outraged by what is happening. There is, he says, no evidence that forced acadamies work in the primary sector and the Downhill children are being used in an attempt “to experiment with 100 years of proud history”.
Downhill’s head is Leslie Church. He says that the school has worked hard to improve the quality of teaching, but there is no alternative than to obey since Gove’s department is asking for a response without allowing any alternative. He worries that the move will mean that the school no longer has ” democratic accountability”. At present there is a democratically elected governing body, and a democratically elected local authority. Both have the power to change the head if they have cause for concern, neither has done so. Right now both parents and councillors see themselves as responsible and “behave in a supportive way”.
This is beginning to happen right across the country and, in the view of many educationalists, will have an adverse effect on primary schools where parent involvement is a major factor. Of course if the governors, who are elected by parents, decide to make such a move that is an entirely different matter.
But Gove is gaining a reputation as a little dictator. Before it is too late someone should remind him that we do still live in a democracy. Just!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ;
1. Which former First Lady was nicknamed “The Smiling Mamba”? 2. Who had hits with “Joanna” and “Celebration”? 3. Where would you see a facula? 4. Who played the title role in “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”? 5. Which country has a unit of currency called the Leone? 6. The seaside town of Westward Ho is in which county? 7. Oloroso is a type of which drink? 8. Back in the charts in 2005, in what year was Bananarama’s first hit? 9. Which Wonder of the World statue was at Olympia? 10. In which century did William Caxton establish the first English printing press?
One of my fellow chicken-breeders travelled to London yesterday. Jack was determined to take part in the sit-down protest against the so-called NHS reforms bill and reports today that Westminster Bridge was closed for over an hour in both directions. Thousands took part and there was a heavy police presence. The protest drew support from right across the country.
Janet Bennet, a pensioner from Liverpool was there and said; “The NHS is important to poeple and we need to stand up and protect it from this creeping privatisation”. Susan Secher, a human resources manager from London said; “Our greatest fear is that the NHS will end up as an insurance-based, two or three-tier service”. Margaret Greenwood, a therapy radiographer from London, said; “In two or three year’s time we may not have a recognisable NHS. It represents wholesale privatisation”. Our very own Jack Pilling said; We have to stand up and be counted on this. Lansley will destroy the NHS”.
The protest organisation ’38 Degrees’ organised a simultaneous flood of emails to members of the House of Lords who receive the bill this week. Lansley is offering further amendments, in fact the bill now scarcely resembles the one that he originally launched. But its central theme remains – the introduction of the private sector.
Whilst no one is opposing the idea of GPs having a greater role in the task of commissioning, it is the place of competition in the bill that is causing the biggest furore to greet any proposal since the poll tax. Of course competition is a good thing in many fields. If we don’t like the Tesco offers we can go down the road to Asda, and so on. But when applied to essential services the concept fails utterly.
The proposed model is very similar to the one that sold off the utilities. Does anyone seriously believe that water services have been enhanced by being in the hands of private companies? Or electricity, gas etc? What competition does in social areas is to create mega, monopoly suppliers. Where it has so far been introduced in health and social care fields it has created faceless, unaccountable, remote companies such as Southern Cross. When its minions fail to deliver proper care who picks up the bill? In their case the revelations of mistreatment exposed by Panorama forced the government to take over.
Throughout this saga Lansley has regularly cited the American example. What he hasn’t mentioned is that whilst NHS management costs run at not much more than 3%, those in the USA account for nearly 20%. Private health and health insurance generate enormous transaction costs. It’s an expensive business processing billing for healthcare, challenging what you are getting for money, litigating for wound infections etc – and paying clever underwriters to squirm out of paying patients or hospitals.
The very nature of private healthcare systems generating choice requires surplus capacity – empty beds – so that patients can exercise that choice. It requires the seperation of elective treatment from emergency. It requires more investment up front to serve the fewer patients better. It requires a two-tier service with a lower-cost administration for the second, and larger, tier. It requires higher standards for tier one, and lower standards for the rest.
All that apart the introduction of competition entails a massively expensive tendering system. The scope for legal challenges will be enormous, and who provides the services not bid for such as accident and emergency which defies any cost analysis leading to ‘prices’? And then there is the vast cost of the proposed “market testing” of every tender. This will involve specifications, extra staff to set budgets and even more to measure quality. And how does the commitment to public consultation on every change, and reviews of service access materialise?
At the heart of all this is the mistaken belief that you can take away from hospitals work that is attractive to the private sector and its shareholders. Yes, it can be done but the result will be wholesale hospital closures and an ever growing tendency for those with deep pockets or expensive insurance to go to private hospitals for all elective treatment.
This is not an argument about ideology. It is about practicalities. Partial privatisation simply will not work alongside the commitment to provide healthcare of equal quality to all. But Lansley continues to argue that it will. Since his track record for judgement is broadly similar to that of Liam Fox we believe him at our peril!
Which reminds us of the appalling record of both this and Blair’s government in regard to probity. How long will it be before the press exposes links between ministers and selected private giants?
The new bill is a bridge too far. If it proceeds it will be the biggest step-backwards in our recent history!
Easy access to the best available health care is important to we old codgers of the allotments. But our concerns at what Andrew Lansley is proposing to do to the NHS extends far beyond the needs of an ageing group, we all fear that, whatever he says, the underlying intention of his ‘reforms’ is a two tier service in which the rich fair well and everyone else suffers. For some time now most of us have been regular visitors to the ’38 Degrees’ website where the protest organisation has attracted almost one million signatures in support of its petition demanding changes to the proposals. In this ’38 Degrees’ has had backing from the British Medical Association.
A few weeks ago an appeal for funding for a legal study of the plans raised sufficient cash for ’38 Degrees’ to engage two top legal experts to examine the small print of the bill which goes befiore parliament shortly. Yesterday their findings were published and one can only conclude that it is as well we didn’t rely on the apparent safeguards provided by Nick Clegg who, under pressure from the Lib Dem conference, had promised to stop any potentially damaging aspects of Lansley’s bill. It seems that the promise was as reliable as the one Clegg gave on tuition fees!
The two barristers, Stephen Cragg QC and Rebecca Haynes QC, make clear that the bill could pave the way for a shift towards a USA-style health care system where private companies profit at the expense of patient care. They particularly stress the implications of Lansley’s plan to remove his duty to provide our healthcare. A new ‘hands-off clause’ removes the government’s power to oversee local commissioning consortia and to guarantee the same level of service wherever we live. The outcome, warn the Barristers, will be huge increases in ‘postcode lotteries’ and less ways for citizens to hold the government to account.
Even more worrying is their verdict on the clauses concerning competition. The NHS will be subject to UK and EU competition law, and the reach of procurement will extend across all NHS Commissioners. Private health care providers will be entitled to take NHS commissiong groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money will be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. The door will be open for the private (largely American) healthcare companies to challenge for every NHS service. They will only need to win the volume treatments to render every hospital insolvent.
The third point made by the Barristers is that every UK hospital will be free to increase the number of private beds to whatever level they wish. They will be encouraged to liaise with the private sector with a view to maximising profit. And the more private beds, the fewer public ones and the longer the waiting times to occupy them.
Like the rest of us MPs tend to skip the small print. Like us they have probably been reassured by Cameron and Clegg’s double act of deception. But it is now clear that if they pass this bill the NHS as we know it is finished. Lansley is obsessed with the American model. Yes, he is right to cliam that the private companies there provide excellent and comprehensive treatment, what he doesn’t mention is that for the majority of the population, who cannot afford private insurance or fees, the level of care is appalling.
The NHS has improved immeasurably in recent years. But that is beside the point which is that everyone is entitled to the same level of service and money allocated is not drained off to pay shareholders.
The final death sentence for the NHS now rests in the hands of MPs and hundreds of thousands of emails are winging their way thanks to the facility provided by ’38 Degrees’. If, despite the new legal warnings, they decide to back Cameron, Clegg and Lansley a new dark age will dawn in which your chance of recovery from illness rests entirely on the depth of your pocket or purse!
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH TODAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Mica Paris and who replaced Trinny & Susannah on “What Not to Wear”? 2. Which famous survey started in 1086? 3. From which musical does the song ”One” come? 4. Ronald Reagan was in which political party? 5. Which Stephen directed the movie “Billy Elliot”? 6. In the Bible, what was the prophet Elijah carried up to heaven in? 7. What nationality was Casanova? 8. What was Al Jolson’s most famous line? 9. If a substance is oleaginous what does it mainly contain? 10. Which General led the junta in the 1982 seizure of the Falklands?
People often ask why a group of elderly geezers commit themselves to raisIng chickens, indeed there are many wet and cold mornings when we ask ourselves the same question. But the answer is simple, we need a reason to get up. Not every pastime provides this when the curtains are pulled to reveal Dantes inferno, but the involvement of animals leaves no option but to groan and rise. We were mulling this over today in the light of news that the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable in this country is rapidly descending to third-world standards and worse. Last night a Panorama investigation provided an insight into the performance of the private sector so beloved of Andrew Lansley and his pals. Clearly they are right to claim that switching to private companies will increase choice, what they didn’t tell us is that torture is on the menu.
As the result of a whistleblower the Beeb managed to install a reporter on the staff of Winterborne View, a care home near Bristol for adults with autism and learning disabilities. The home is run by Castlebeck, a company with a £90 million turnover which runs more than 50 such units. The company charges the NHS and local authoritiues up to £3500 a week to provide care for patients.
But what we saw last night, thanks to a hidden camera, was an appalling catalogue of cruel abuse. In fact a watching expert described what they regularly did as torture and one didn’t need to be an expert to realise that. Patients were pinned under chairs for long periods, had water poured over their heads, given cold showers when fully dressed, treated as punchbags…one disgusting abuse followed another. A woman apparently attempting to commit suicide was told “Come on I’ll keep the window open for ya. I like watching you lot try to jump”. Another member of staff said “If you are on your own you have to smash her”. Another chanted “Nein, nein, nein” as someone placed his knee across a patient’s throat.
Two things emerged. The staff were using vulnerable patients for their own sadistic amusement. The staff were untrained, poorly paid and totally unsupervised. It was, to quote the watching Professor Jim Mansell, the author of the Government’s policy on disability care, the worst kind of institutional care, the kind that was prevalent in the 1960s. “The staff”, he added, “ don’t think that these are human beings like them”.
To me the most significant revelation was that a large private provider seemed to have no awareness of what was going on. Lee Reed, the chief executive of Castlebeck, said that the staff should have been suspended but were not. As in any private company the prime objective is profit. Inspections, trained staff and a supervised code of practice cost money. Having once been a member of a Health Authority inspection team covering private nursing homes I have to admit that I was not unduly surprised.
The simple truth is that private companies enter the healthcare field to make profit and unlike, say, a retailer have no opportunity to increase volumes once all beds are occupied. So they can only improve their margins by providing less costly care than that tendered for.
This government is not alone in believing that the private sector is some kind of potential saviour for the NHS. The last government paid out millions to companies for operations they never performed. And amongst those that were carried out any complication was immediately passed on to the nearest NHS hospital. Caring medicine and maximum profitability are disastrous bedfellows.
The police are now involved in the situation exposed by the Beeb. That is good news. Equally pleasing is the insight it provided into the dark world of private medical care. Lansley’s plan deserves total opposition!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; 1. What my Heart Wants To Say. 2. Monkey 3. Ailurophobia 4. Turkey 5. Rudyard Kipling 6. One 7. Senegal 8. Theme from Harry’s Game 9. John Prescott 10. Fruits .
Several of my allotment pals have enjoyed my problems with the great new communications highway. Admittedly the ones saying ‘we told you so’ are those who still use two cocoa tins with string rather than mobile phones, but as one disaster has followed another I must confess that my sense of wonder at the new age instant messaging has become somewhat dulled. But we seem to be up and running today even if the facility for exchanging comments has yet to resurface.
But everyone seems agreed an one thing. The rolling over of the government on its proposal to sell off our forests is great news for democracy. Thanks to organisations such as ’38 Degrees’ over one hundred emails were sent to MPs and over 530,000 members of the public signed a petition. Caroline Spelman was forced to apologise and admit that “we misread the public reaction”. Pity they didn’t seek it before blundering in!
Ed Miliband has predicted that an even greater storm is building on the Lansley plans to privatise the NHS, and he could be right. This time around the coaltion faces massive opposition from the British Medical Association and General Practitioners who believe that the plan to allow private companies to ‘cherry pick’ easy-to-run services will damage our hospitals and lower the standards of clinical care.
Having experience of NHS hospitals I am quite clear that what is proposed will do enormous damage. But as at today I am even more worried about the immediate affect of the massive cuts in funding. Yes, cuts. When ministers claim to be protecting NHS funding they are lying. All hospitals face huge ‘efficiency targets’, cuts by any other name. Andrew Lansley talks about cutting administration, and in regard to Primary Care Trusts he is right. But hospitals are already down to the bone and such admin staff as now remains is largely involved in key tasks such as medical records and appointment setting. So the cuts will have to come from front line doctors and nurses.
The fatal action is already underway. Yesterday 986 redundancies were announced at two London hospitals, St Georges and Kingston, and doctors leaders warned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing is hoerified and warned that “there is no way that the loss of almost 100 staff will not affect care for patients”. He added that the rhetoric “of protecting the frontline and what is actually happening on hospotal wards is widening by the day”. At the two hospitals in question those losing their jobs include consultants, doctors and nurses and the number of beds is being reduced.
Across the country there have already been cuts in numbers of medical staff totalling 3,400, and the number is growing by the day. The government has waived waiting time targets and the chances are that the queues will begin to lengthen over the next few weeks. The number of older folk is growing and the demand for services with it. Our hospitals are beseiged and are heading for collapse. A good example is to be found in Southend where the Foundation Trust is having to axe 400 jobs and close six wards and in Croydon, where twelve elective surgery beds are being closed. Even the most famous hospotals are tottering, Barts is shedding 630 staff includng 250 nurses.
Add to all this the potential chaos of the widely disputed Lansley plans and you have the assurance of meltdown. Trust me, I know what I’m doing, says Lansley. Exactly the words Spelman used when fighting for the Forest sales!
The government is right to look for highly paid non-jobs such as many which exist in local councils. But they don’t exist in our hard-pressed hospitals. Has Andrew Lansley ever used an Accident and Emergency department?
’38 Degrees’ is gearing up for a campaign to save the NHS. Everyone should pray that it repeats its success over the Forests. If it doesn’t, this will not be a good country in which to become ill!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY “ I’m not against half-naked girls. Not as often as I would like to be”….Woody Allen “People think I hate sex. I don’t. I just don’t like things that stop you watching television”…Victoria Wood ” A sexagenarian? At his age? That’s disgusting”….Gracie Allen “I asked this girl out and she said, ‘You got a friend?’ I said yes, she said ‘Then go out with him”….Dom Irrera “I was dating a transvestite. My mother said ‘Marry him. You’ll double your wardrobe”…..Joan Rivers “The nice thing about stalkers = they’re always there for you”…Jenny Abrams “I asked my accountant if anything could get me out of the mess I am in now. He thought for a long time….’Yes’ he said. ‘Death would help’ “……Robert Morley “What is it about people that repair shoes that makes them so good at cutting keys?”….Harry Hill “I used to sell hearing aids door to door. It wasn’t easy, because your best prospects never answered”…Bob Monkhouse “Wanted: curate for country parish, slow left arm bowler preferred”..Advert in Times “Did you ever hear of a kid, while playing, pretend to be an accountant, even if he wanted to be one? “…..Jackie Mason “Of course prostitutes have babies. Where do you think traffic wardens come from? “…Dave Dutton ”Living on earth may be expensive but it includes a free trip around the sun”….Ashleigh Brilliant “If the universe is expanding, why can’t I find a parking space? “….Woody Allen “A computer is like an Old Testament God – lots of rules and no mercy”….Joseph Campbell “We live in an age where the pizza arrives at your house before the police do”….Jeff Marder “LA; any town that has an all-night, drive-in taxidermist has got to be weird”…Billy Connolly. ” If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it!”….Ken Livingstone.
ANSWERS TO THE LAST QUIZ; 1. Presbyterians and Congregationalists 2. Princess Anne
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 In what year was Jimmy Carter elected president of the USA? 2. Which member of the British royal family was killed in a flying accident in 1971?