FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Privatizing the Social Healthcare ‘Brand’

by HOUMAN BAREKAT

London.

The musician and satirist Tom Lehrer famously quipped that satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.  He might have saved his breath if he had known what was coming.  This week, the UK’s Conservative-led coalition government announced plans to export the National Health Service (NHS) brand under the auspices of the private sector in order, supposedly, to raise funds for the NHS at home.  The proposals amount to nothing less than the creation of a corporate franchise, using the good name of the NHS and everything it has historically represented – a not-for-profit, socialised healthcare system free at the point of delivery – as the driving force behind a renewed expansion of private sector medical services.

The move comes barely a matter of weeks after Danny Boyle’s pointed tribute to the NHS in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, a showpiece event watched by an estimated 900 million people worldwide, and widely lauded as an unqualified success.  The director’s tribute was believed to have been intended as a sideswipe at the coalition government, which has targeted the NHS as part of its aggressive programme of public sector cuts.   The gesture was warmly received by the general public at home; and obviously someone, somewhere spotted an opportunity.   The gall of it is something to behold.

The NHS was founded in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from the Conservatives.  Seven decades later it is, for all its flaws, so popular an institution that no mainstream political party would dare to stand on a platform of earnest, full-scale privatisation.  Even the Conservative party, packed though it is with rightwing ideologues who would gladly see the NHS done away with, consistently pays lip service to it in a grudging concession to the popular consensus.  Not that this has stopped them from doing their worst: a plethora of private finance initiatives are slowly eating away at the fabric of the institution, which is increasingly taking on the aspect of a public-private hybrid.  Indeed, the present proposals are only an extension of existing successful schemes pioneered by Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Despite the risks, it is a comparatively safe bet for the private entrepreneur, who will see their investment effectively securitised by the state.  If it works out, a coterie of private management companies, cronies and PR men will stand to make a killing; if it fails, the public will presumably foot the bill.  But if this latest initiative represents little more than the continuation of an ongoing agenda – pursued, it has to be said, with almost equal vigour by the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the previous decade – the timing is nonetheless instructive.  In seeking to cash in on the immense pulling power of the NHS, the technocrats who will make this thing happen are paying an enormous compliment to an institution that reeks of socialism.  Its appeal as a ‘brand’ consists in its opposition to everything that neoliberalism stands for – all the more reason, therefore, to seek to exploit that brand and ultimately rob it of all meaning.  The Tories cannot kill the NHS outright; they will instead  look to re-shape it in their own image.  In other words, beyond recognition.

Houman Barekat is a London-based writer and editor of Review 31.  He is co-editor, with Mike Gonzalez, of Arms and the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring, forthcoming from Pluto Press.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail