Mutualisation in the NHS

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2015 Health Care Service Group Conference
5 December 2014

Conference notes with concern the establishment of the NHS Mutuals Pathfinder Project and the selection of ten hospitals to take part in the project.

A principal stated rationale offered for exploring mutual status is the prospect that mutual status might improve services by increasing staff engagement. By contrast, prospective pathfinder organisations were given a mere four weeks during August 2014 in which to engage with staff to “demonstrate staff support” for participation as a pathfinder.

Conference commends Health Group Staff for their prompt objection to this inadequate consultation process.

Conference notes that the pathfinder project aims to explore barriers to mutualisation rather than exploring whether mutualisation is – or is not – a good thing in itself.

Conference also notes that NHS organisations are capable of improving, and entitled to improve staff engagement at any time; it does not require any change in the form of governance (such as mutual status).

Mutual status means that NHS Trust staff would become co-owners of their hospitals in effect this would transfer NHS assets that we all own as members of the public into private hands – albeit the private hands of NHS staff.

This risks distracting NHS staff from their proper “engagement” with providing good care with the competing “priority” – the “profitability” of the mutual.

Conference notes the blindingly obvious precedent illustrated by the fate of most “Mutual Building Societies” since the 1980’s. The great majority are now fully private commercial organisations, following a process in which “owners” of the mutual building societies (savers and mortgage holders) voted to de-mutualise/privatise their organisations in exchange for payment in cash or shares.

Francis Maude of the Cabinet Office concedes that the creation of Mutuals is “technically, privatisation”. The experience of the Building Societies shows that mutualisation threatens not only privatisation but the creation of fully privatised fully commercial NHS organisations.

Conference therefore restates its principled opposition to privatisation, including mutualisation, and calls on the Health Service Group Executive, working where necessary or appropriate with the political funds and Labour Link to:

1) publicise to members and the public the threat posed by mutualisation as a “final step” towards a privatised, commercial NHS;

2) seek to influence the Labour party to adopt a policy opposing mutualisation;

3) where possible, work with Branches within the Pathfinder Mutuals to inform educate and agitate NHS staff to reject mutualisation decisively.