If anyone had any doubts as to what's happening to the UK's National Health Service (NHS) please read below extracted from the excellent newsletter Health Campaigners' News published by the the NHS Support Federation and the national Keep Our NHS Public campaign.
Virgin Healthcare - the new model NHS?
Virgin Healthcare, part of Sir Richard Branson's sprawling business empire, has announced that it will be opening the first of six new health centres later this year. The company is encouraging GPs to join the new branded clinics, while retaining their existing contracts. Virgin would manage GP funds for staff and rental costs, and would offer additional, private, services to patients. These private services could include dentistry as well as homeopathy and other complementary therapies.
Mark Britnell, the director of commissioning at the Department of Health, has welcomed the move, pointing out that over £1bn worth of contracts will be available for companies such as Virgin to bid for as part of the government's plan for 250 new health centres and GP practices.
The company is planning a roadshow of 26 evening events at locations around the country in February and March, targeted at "GPs and their clinical staff" to "explain our plans in more detail and welcome your feedback". See the Virgin Healthcare website at http://www.virginhealthcare.net/ for a full list of dates and venues, and to book a place.
Unison has said "We are absolutely opposed to the move by Virgin Group into GP surgeries .... It is deeply alarming that a private company such as Virgin Group will be marketing its additional services to potentially vulnerable patients when they are in need of medical care as if they were visiting a gym .... [We should not] allow health centres to be run by gym managers." The union has also made the point that some GPs have failed to meet their patients' needs in areas such as out-of-hours care because they have been acting as private companies and pursuing their own requirements rather than those of their patients.
if you want find out more about the fight to save the NHS log on to: http://nhscampaign.org/