openDemocracyUK

Arrests show the cynical reality of the NHS 'listening exercise'

Two activists have been arrested for protesting outside a think-tank lobbying for NHS privatisation. It's clear who really has the government's ear in the so-called 'listening exercise' on the Health and Social Care Bill
Niki Seth-Smith
25 May 2011

Who really has the government's ear in the so-called 'listening exercise' around Andrew Lansley's proposed NHS reforms? Not engaged citizens, it appears, after two protesters were arrested this morning outside a think-tank that is lobbying for NHS privatisation.

The small group of NHS Direct Action and UK Uncut activists, dressed in scrubs, had prepared for a fun, peaceful demonstration - a mere taster in preparation for this Saturday, the networks' first full day of action over the Health and Social Care Bill, to be held up and down the country. 

The think-tank targeted was 2020health, a centre-right pressure group with strong links to the private health insurance industry. As the monitoring organisation Spinwatch has helped expose, 2020health, which claims to be "independent and grassroots", has been a key influence on the Health Minister and his proposed demolition of the NHS. Its chairman, Tom Sackville, is a high-flying beneficiary of the revolving door between the government and the private health sector. Once a health minister under Margaret Thatcher, he is now CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, which represents a hundred private healthcare companies in thirty-one countries.

It was Sackville that the protesters asked to see, after walking through the front door and taking the lift up to the think-tank's offices. After refusing to meet them, was it Sackville who then called in the police? According to NHS Direct Action, the activists left peacefully to continue their protests outside, only to be confronted by more than twenty riot police and a FIT team surveillance officer. Two activists were searched and arrested on suspicion of "aggravated criminal damage" and were taken to West End Central police station.

Apologists for the escalation of political policing in recent months argue that there are other ways, in our advanced democracy, for British citizens to make their voices heard. Yet more than 6000 people responded to the flawed consultation into the Health and Social Care Bill, and only one significantly change has been made - concerning which body will be responsibility for midwifery. It seems that those who have chosen the approved channels for dissent have little chance of touching Sackville and his ilk. And those that wish to meet the backstage masterminds of Lansley's bill, as we saw this morning, are likely to meet instead the strong arm of the state. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData