Taking on Virgin Private Profiteers: TTIP Pause Shows the Way

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Save Our NHS Hull and E. Yorkshire is once again joining forces with the People’s NHS. This time we are exposing the rapid sell off of the NHS into private hands via the takeover of Walk in Centres and aspects of GP practices in Hull by Virgin Healthcare.

Last year we combined with the People’s NHS over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Treaty which Cameron wanted to put “rocket boosters on” last summer. The reason being that he feared defeat at the polls and wanted to ensure a slice of the NHS sell off went into the pockets of Tory donors and MPs in case he got kicked out.

TTIP basically allows corporations from the USA to have a legally binding right to compete for Government contracts across the EU. In the UK this will see the NHS broken up because when contracts such as physiotherapy come up for grabs the NHS cannot legally be the preferred provider.

Particularly concerning is the ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ mechanism (ISDS) within TTIP. (Bear with). If an American company invests in Britain, and British (or EU) regulations later change and affect their profits, ISDS gives the American firm the right to sue our government for loss of future earnings. Evidence from Canada, El Salvador and Ecuador, where such mechanisms already operate, suggests that the threat of huge lawsuits dissuades governments from legislating on issues like cigarette packaging, raising the minimum wage or cracking down on polluting companies.

However a pause has been called on TTIP due to the vast number of signatures collected in the UK (10,000 in Hull alone). ISDS has frightened many MEP’s due to the response on the streets from residents. They cannot justify it.

The fight is far from over, and if the Parliamentarians in the UK had their way it would have passed without comment. “It’s too difficult for the public to grasp, you’re wasting your time” we were told. But by mass action and taking the time to talk to the public via numerous street stalls, public meetings a Mass March and Rally addressed by the only national politician who could be bothered, Richard Corbett MEP, we gathered enough support to create a pause.

Our next campaign is all about creeping privatisation which can only accelerate now the Tories have a majority the Commons. This despite capturing only 24% of the possible vote, but that’s another story…

Virgin – tell us when you’re treating us! 
Virgin are one the UK’s most recognisable brands. Their name appears on everything, from trains to planes, to credit cards and even space rockets. But there’s one arm of the Virgin empire that they don’t want you to know about, their profit-making business inside our NHS.
In Hull they are involved in Walk in Centres and delivery of some GP services. In the UK as a whole Virgin run over 200 clinical services in our NHS, like GPs practices, GUM clinics, the lot. Services that were once run by NHS doctors and now run by Virgin, for profit. But you wouldn’t know that if you were inside one of their facilities. Virgin doesn’t use their logo. Instead they use the NHS’ logo. Wjy? Because the public recognise that NHS workers are the most honest, trustworthy and safety conscious people in society.  
We think this is disingenuous and frankly wrong. We call for honesty and openness by Government. If privatisation is so great, what are they embarrassed about? 
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.

Save Our NHS Hull 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.

Watch this space for our next actions in the community.

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