Monday, January 31, 2011

Caveman economics

Caroline Spelman got duffed up on the Today programme this morning over her plans to sell-off the nation’s forests. “You’re going to have to back down on this, aren't you?”, asked nature-loving interviewer, John Humphrys.

We can only hope he’s right. But whatever happens to our woods, Spelman’s justification for the sell-off highlights a worryingly backwards approach to economics from the government.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

For and against NHS reform - in their own words

UPDATE: New book due out in April "THE PLOT AGAINST THE NHS" by Colin Leys & Stewart Player, promises to expose the creeping privatisation of the NHS. A previous Colin Leys book "Market Driven Politics: Neoliberal Democracy and the Public Interest" (reviewed in detail here) concluded that the marketising of health and public broadcasting was "incompatible with democracy and, in the long run, with civilised life."

The government's disastrous Health and Social Care Bill has its second reading in parliament tomorrow, Monday. There will be a debate and a vote, after which the Bill can proceed to the committee stage and be picked apart clause by clause by MPs on the health committee.

Under "read more" below you will find two documents that set out the cases for and against.

The first is a government Q&A note written to help health ministers defend the Bill against its many critics. In an Orwellian flourish, the questions and answers are referred to as "myths and facts" (my favourites are Myths 4 and 10, so brief, so flimsy).

The second is a briefing note prepared by Unison, the public service trade union, challenging specific clauses in the Bill. If you don't want to read the whole document, a summary of Unison's main arguments is here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unhealthy NHS reform

The UK coalition government today introduced its Health and Social Care Bill 2010-11 to parliament for first reading. In its short life so far this Bill has, to quote Malcolm Tucker, been about as popular as a turd on a trampoline. The cross party Health Select Committee described it as inefficient, risky and a hand-grenade thrown into the system, and newspapers reported mass public concern including a petition that's gained 10,000 signatories already.

Officially, the Bill will let GPs, with their detailed knowledge of local patient needs, decide how resources are spent instead of primary care trusts. So far so sensible, but something sinister lurks alongside, which the government sweetly calls “liberating the provision of NHS services”.

In translation, this means allowing private companies to replace NHS providers if they can beat them in competition. Care will still be free, but the providers may answer to shareholders not voters.