Health union threatens court action over NHS privatisation proposals

Friday 06 August 2010

Health service workers are on collision course with the government over sweeping changes to the NHS that are being implemented even before gaining parliamentary approval.

Union Unison warned the coalition to prepare for legal action over the proposals currently being bulldozed through Parliament without any public consultation.

Under the Con-Dem plans 80 per cent of the NHS budget would be passed into GPs’ control while strategic health authorities and primary care trusts would be abolished.

“The government’s white paper will change forever the NHS as we know it,” said Unison head of health Karen Jennings. These sweeping changes were not part of any party

manifesto and it is outrageous that they are being brought in without consulting the public, patients, staff and unions.”

The contents of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS white paper have not yet passed through Parliament.

However Unison warned that NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson is already putting the plan into practice by writing to all SHAs, PCTs and other providers with a series of “actions that we need to start now.”

In response the union has written a letter to the Department of Health stating that it is illegal to propose such far-reaching changes to the NHS without giving the public, workers and patients a proper opportunity to have their say.

The union is set to launch a court battle to stop the NHS “being torn apart” unless it receives a satisfactory response within the next week.

“The NHS constitution enshrined in law the right to consultation and yet, in writing to NHS managers, Mr Nicholson is working on the premise that the consultation is only about the best way to achieve pre-determined outcomes – this makes it nothing more than a paper exercise and a sham,” said Ms Jennings.

Campaign group Health Emergency backed Unison’s stance.

Chairman Geoff Martin said: “Health campaigners up and down the country will fully support Unison’s legal challenge on the white paper.

The government is effectively trying to bulldoze through what amounts to the total destruction of the NHS as anything other than a franchise name for private companies and bogus social enterprises to exploit.

They must be stopped before we wake up and find the grinning, bearded face of Richard Branson and his Virgin branding plastered all over the wards as him and his ilk move in for the kill.”

A Department of Health spokesman confirmed that it had received a letter from Unison concerning the pace of change since the white paper proposals and would respond shortly.

by Will Stone, Morning Star

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