The NHS is still the big story – or should be.

This was the week the news broke about the way the biggest planned privatization in NHS history was being handled– and the first to put on sale the care of the most vulnerable patients.

Alex Sobel with the People's March for NHS as it came through Leeds NW last summer
Alex Sobel with the People’s March for NHS as it came through Leeds NW last summer

This was also the week the LibDem/Tory Government’s report on children and young people’s mental health services was published – or rather when an edited version of that report was published.

The Coalition is not keen that the NHS should stay in the headlines – unless it’s good knocking copy.

They’re not keen, either, that the undoctored truth be in public hands.

But it’s important that the public be kept informed.

Fundamental changes are afoot in the NHS – obscured by the sheer complexity of this huge institution.

And the threat of TTIP is on the horizon – a threat from which nether the Tories nor LibDems will exempt the NHS.

The biggest proposed privatization is of cancer and end of life care in Staffordshire. It’s worth £1.2 billion. It has been pushed through with minimum consultation. And the leading bidders are US companies – some with very poor track records in delivering public services. The contract seems almost to have been set up to sideline the NHS itself as a bidder.

It’s something of a watershed contract.

As Kate Godfrey, Labout candidate for Stafford, who’s been central to the revelations, says

‘It is the first time that cancer or end-of-life care has been contracted out. The first use of the prime provider model on anything like this scale. The first privatisation without formal consultation. The first huge international NHS contract that could fall under TTIP. Transfer these services out of the NHS now, and we may never get them back.’

The King’s Fund, no ready critic of the Coalition, has called the contract ‘a risk to take with taxpayers’ money’

Wendy Savage, of Keep Our NHS Public was blunt

‘“Now we have groups of GPs, with no training in epidemiology, oncology or commissioning, making plans to spend millions on an untried system with private companies, who have no experience in cancer care, eagerly waiting to make profits from these sick patients.”

The information about the contract was leaked – and came into the hands of Kate Godfrey. She’s fighting this one hard. You can follow her and her actions on Twitter @KateVotesLabour

While this story of the implications of Lsnsley’s Act for the NHS is unfolding, the Coalition has also released a report on mental health services for children and young people, published by the Department of Health.

Except that before it was published a few key changes were made – when it came to criticism of the Coalition’s record.

The copy of the original report that emerged last month saw expert authors criticise the Government for its reductions in funding and the impact on services and waiting times.

“Since 2011 there has been a reduction in funding and consequent reduction in service provision, and an increase in waiting times; […]. Meanwhile, CAMHS providers report increased demand in terms of the number and complexity of referrals combined with cuts in CAMHS budgets.”

However, the same paragraph today had become:

“Since 2011, our best evidence is that these difficulties are the result of financial constraints accompanied by rising demand.”

Similarly, the original report references a “Lack of parity in funding decisions” – between mental health and physical health – but this criticism has been removed.

Only ten days ago it emerged that the Department of Health is also failing to publish a damning report on its management of the NHS by Lord Stuart Rose. Labour wrote to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to call for its immediate publication, but the Secretary of State has not responded.

The NHS is still the big story – that’s why the Coalition is so desperate to doctor it.

But their biggest reorganisation in the NHS’s history is only just beginning to show its implications – implications which will change the NHS fundamentally, and in ways no-one ever voted for.

TTIP would make those changes difficult if not impossible to undo.

Yet Tories and LibDems persist in refusing to categorically exempt the NHS from TTIP.

To protect the NHS, to halt its accelerating privatization – there’s only one vote that will count on May 7 – Labour

So vote for Alex Sobel on May 7 here in Leeds NW.

And sign up now to help him win.

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