Headlines: December 5th, 2001

Trade unions are angry at the decision to allow private companies to deliver health care and end the monopoly supplier status of the NHS. The anger was intensified by the timing of the announcement which came on the day they held a ‘Public works’ rally in London and union delegates from around the country lobbied their MPs and invited them to support the union campaign. Union leaders had to hastily re-write speeches for the rally.The theme of the rally was that it’s time to celebrate all that’s best in public services and the keynote speech by John Monk TUC Secretary made the case for quality services delivered free from profit. Charles Clarke, Labour’s chairman presented the Government case for the NHS invest and reform agenda.

The announcement by Health Secreatry Alan Milburn that the Bupa-owned Redwood Hospital, in Redhill in Surrey, will perform 5,000 routine operations such as hip and knee replacements each year marks a watershed for the health service. Although the NHS will continue to be a monopoly funder of health care, it will be in competition with private companies for delivering it. The Redhill hospital will be the first of 20 fast track diagnosis and treatment centers to be developed under a concordat with the private sector.