Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stop privatising our health service!

Important news from
UNISON has called for an immediate halt to the opening of any more Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs), in the wake of a highly critical health committee report.
The Commons health committee has warned that the government’s continuing commitment to ISTCs could lead to cuts in services at hospitals.
It was time for the government to admit that ISTCs were “a failed experiment resulting from its cavalier attitude to policy development,” said UNISON head of health Karen Jennings.
Jennings was planning to raise the issue with health secretary Patricia Hewitt today, in a meeting with other health unions and stakeholders.
To date, 21 ISTCs have been set up at a cost of £5bn, to carry out minor surgery that includes hip operations, ear, nose and throat treatment and cataract operations. Investing the money spent on ISTCs into the NHS may have been a cheaper and more efficient option, the committee reported.
Jennings welcomed the report as a “welcome, honest, critical look” at government policy on ISTCs.“It underlines the case that it would be simply throwing good money after bad to allow any more private treatment centres to open,” she said.“The health committee is damning in its conclusions that, if the planned phase 2 goes ahead, we will see not only whole wards closing, but whole hospitals. “UNISON has always maintained that opening these centres was a leap in the dark.”The committee agreed that there had been no systematic attempt to measure the impact of ISTCs on the NHS, Jennings added.“It is a criminal waste of taxpayers' money that most of these centres are working at less than 50% capacity, but still get paid the full contract price”.
Of course the Union now needs to consider its position in relation to the next Leader of the Labour Party in the light of our views on privatisation in health. I think a quick visit to could help...

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