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Privatisation: The Root Cause of The Crisis in the Blood Service.


The reason there is a crisis at the Blood and Transplant Service is pretty straightforward. Privatisation. Not only is there a drastic shortage of blood products as reported in the media today, but fresh plasma which is a vital component in many treatments, is virtually impossible to come by. With conditions involving the immune system plasma exchange is used to remove diseased plasma and replace it with healthy fluid and white blood cells. This way you can slow down the ravages of progressive diseases.

The owners of Blood and Transplant are asset stripping leeches Bain Capital, a company set up by none other than Mitt Romney, the magic underpants wearing GOP candidate in the 2012 US Presidential election.

Not that you would know as the staff all wear the NHS logo with not one shred of evidence anywhere in their facilities that B and T are anything other than part of the publically owned service. What are Bain so shy about?

Plenty it would seem. Polly Toynbee, writing in today’s Guardian tells us that Bain own Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts. All these firms have absolutely disgraceful employee relations and will do literally anything to turn a profit. Dominos have been recently chastised for placing young eastern European migrant workers on traffic islands and other dangerous places in freezing conditions sporting sandwich boards to entice passing drivers.

In 2005 Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, using a template to be followed by her successors such as Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham set the wheels in motion for privatisation of the service by making Blood and Transplant a separate “Special Health Authority” which evolved by 2010 into a limited company.The Government, for the time being were the sole owners but this structure made privatisation by the Tories a simple task. The sell off to Bain was conducted in 2013 causing former Labour Foreign Secretary and SDP co founder Dr. David Owen to comment, “It’s hard to conceive of a worse outcome for a sale of this particularly sensitive national health asset”.

Dr. Alyson Pollock, professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University London, said there was “not a shred of evidence” to support government claims that private firms would boost innovation in plasma treatments. “Where is the evidence that when you use venture capital such as Bain Capital that they invest and they don’t asset strip?”

Here’s the thing. Due to vCJD (Mad Cow Disease to the rest of us) plasma cannot be extracted from UK donors. Therefore B and T are obliged to buy in fresh plasma from the US where individuals donors are not paid to give blood. Once imported they “sell” the product via an internal market to their departments who rent hospital space from the NHS. Clear so far? Incidentally the rent is based on floor space. That’s why PFI hospitals are so huge, the more floor space the greater the rent.

Anyway there was a realisation that they can get more for the plasma by selling it abroad, especially to Spain and China. So the product imported ostensibly to treat UK based patients is being diverted abroad so that more money can be made. Instead staff are spending hour after hour diluting inferior concentrated plasma into saline bags, for hyper sensitive patients this could make all the difference.

You and I may find this a tad disgraceful (understatement) but Bain has a legal obligation to make as much dosh as it can for its investors. The fault lies with the political class who allowed this situation to arise.

In the 1980’s we were pedalled the line that privatisation of electricity would mean more competition, increased efficiency and see prices charged to the consumer tumble. Instead a handful of companies cornered the market, set up a cartel and can now squeeze consumers until the pips squeak. Customer relations and satisfaction levels are a rock bottom. But the companies do not give a fig, nor do they need to as there is virtually no room for manoeuvre for the hard pressed consumer.

The parallel with what is going on in the NHS more and more often needs to be made. If we just roll over and let the mass, dishonest sell off continue then we have the same situation re played with health.

Capitalism works on squeezing to maximise profit. In the case of electricity, gas and the railways it is the consumer that suffers. (Currently) the consumer cannot be charged by these companies so instead it is the staff who have endured contracts being trashed with terms and conditions being changed to force those who aren’t “flexible” workers out of the door. They can then be replaced with less experienced (cheaper) nurses and inevitably the level of service is depleted.

Hull Red Labour believe that the NHS is the jewel in the crown of the UK and demonstrates in microcosm our nation’s values of fair play and coming together for the common good. The British Social Attitudes survey place the NHS right at the pinnacle of what we are proud of, although over 90% of respondents say it is underfunded.

We reject the role of private providers in the NHS, but until we are in a position to get rid of them it is vital the public are told who is treating them. The NHS logo is vastly trusted and must not be placed in jeopardy. We call on the Government to restrict the use of the NHS logo to staff who are actually employed by the service.

In the long term Hull Red Labour will continue to support the campaigning activity of Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire and work in tandem with the People’s NHS to defend jobs and services.

As a Party we support the principle of the 1945 Labour Government that the NHS should be free and the point of use and funded solely from taxes. We believe in public health, not private wealth.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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