The NHS in England is now advertising across the private sector in the European Union to sell off the “back office” or administrative functions of GP practices, running medical and patient record systems, collating and recording patient information and GP payments.
These functions date back to the origins of the NHS and employ almost 2,000 workers across England (slightly different arrangements apply to other parts of Britain).
Following the government’s disastrous Health and Social Care Act (now officially condemned as a destructive waste by leading NHS think tank the King's Fund), these services were transferred from the now abolished Primary Care Trusts to NHS England.
As part of the vicious reorganisation of the system, they were redesignated as Primary Care Support Services, and immediately lost 40 per cent of their funding. This led to proposals for nearly 1,000 redundancies and closure of offices (including all four offices in London).
Worse was to come. The scale of these cuts made the services effectively inoperable. NHS management was told to come up with new proposals. A suggested selling off to a part-public mainly-private company was scotched by the new NHS England Chief Executive insisting that full EU-wide private sector advertising took place.
Workers are now being told that no transfer will take place before the election. Management have been embarrassed and appalled at what they've been required to do, and the workers’ union, Unison, has been struggling to keep its members abreast of ever-changing proposals.
A voluntary redundancy scheme has been established – and more than half of the workforce scrambled to go, rather than be sold off with the services they provide. Understandable, yes, but not a solution to the problem.
No future lies in such a response. It is a betrayal of those who fought to establish these important services, and a betrayal of future workers who will not have valuable jobs to do. And it is a betrayal of the workers themselves, by the workers themselves. Workers must gather themselves, and must move away from such defeatist and defeated thinking.