In the mid 1990’s Britain’s railways were privitised. This was based on the myth that there would be choice and competition in the railways. This is and has always been a lie, because if I want to take a train to London from Manchester then there is only one train which I can take. It’s pretty expensive and uncomfortable but there isn’t anything I can do about it, other than move to a different city, get elected as a Member of Parliament, or buy a car. I am no better off than before the railways were privitised, only now we have the most expensive railways in Europe and they are mostly owned by Deutsche Bahn.
Of the governments that have been in power through my life, every single one has pushed privitisation upon sectors where it doesn’t make any sense. Thatcher did a wonderful job with the electricity boards such that a lot of public investment got sucked up by private companies and nowadays most of it is owned and controlled by the French. Those in charge peddle a need for constant “reform” (even though permanent change would seem to be the opposite of what a Conservate government should be offering).
One of the places in which choice makes no sense at all is in the NHS. I have no way of telling who is a good doctor and who is not, besides whether they have been on shift for more than 12 hours. If I find that I have contracted MRSA then the main thing I would like to do is get better again. I certainly don’t want to have to research which hospitals are and are not fit for purpose so that I can “choose” which one gets to give me antibiotics. This fact cannot escape even the most out of touch of the our millionaire government.
Still, this is exactly what is happening. If you look closely, choice is not involved at all. It’s more like a game of poker: whichever company can claim that they will charge least and deliver the same quality will be able to take over whatever services they feel like. What happens if the winning bidder later turns out to be charging crazy fees, delivering a bad service or even flat-out lying? Well, usually nothing, it seems. It’s a game of “who can come up with the best contract.” It would make a great party game.
From the Telegraph:
In a series of articles in the British Medical Journal, Professor Pollock has shown, for example, that £500 million of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on a flagship scheme to treat NHS patients in the private sector. The Independent Sector Treatment Centres were set up to enable private companies to treat NHS patients. But under the terms of the contracts, an arrangement known as “take or pay”, the NHS allots the private company a set sum at the beginning of each year, regardless of whether or not it does all the work it is paid for. In fact, the data shows that of the first 31 of these centres to open in 2005, just four performed all of the contracted operations. In total, the government paid £217 million for operations that never happened.
Incidentally, if I were forced to think of an organisation that makes even less sense to privitise then I would probably say the police.
Edit: there is an EDM to repeal the new regulations which I have mailed my MP about urging him to sign. (I guess as a Lib Dem he could go either way). This article explains what is currently happening a bit more clearly — the gist of it is that Andrew Lansley is a lying bastard.