Virgin Care Head Offices, London
25th June 2018
As the sun rose over the beaches of the British Virgin Islands, the NHS Anti-Swindle Team revealed the haul of NHS swag that appears to have washed ashore at Richard Branson's feet; hospitals, GP surgeries, lucrative contracts, and numerous skilled doctors and nurses from the NHS.
While presented as 'business as usual' the involvement of companies such as Virgin Care in the NHS strikes us as daylight robbery.
Branson’s Virgin Group pay no corporation tax in the UK. They have however been awarded over 400 NHS contracts, worth over 2 billion pounds. This perfectly legal but bizarre tax situation is ideal for extracting profits from our most treasured publicly funded institution. This is one example of how the government is privatising and marketising the NHS behind the scenes to allow private companies to profit from our nation’s healthcare.
The NHS Anti-Swindle Team (pictured above) are a grassroots collective of artists, activists and mischief-makers who use creative civil disobedience to fight for a publicly run NHS and oppose all forms of private company involvement in the NHS. The doctors involved were actual NHS staff from Docs Not Cops, who find themselves in working for the NHS but actually employed by a number of privately controlled companies.
No one can have missed the daily news stories that demonstrate that the NHS is in crisis; the endless waiting lists, the patients left untended in corridors, the haemorrhaging of staff. This state of crisis has provoked a number of national NHS campaigns, a genuine grassroots resistance to backdoor privatisation and a fightback against cuts and attacks.
This abundance of blue and white campaign groups highlights the overwhelming support for the NHS. What the Anti-Swindle team is aiming to do, is to illustrate these discussions through a visual and accessible style that encourages everyone to be part of this vital conversation.
Everyone seems to love the NHS, even those who are tearing it apart. The reality of the mass sell-off is deliberately obscured by the use of ever-changing acronyms and legal jargon. When you understand that ‘down-grading’ is the code word for closures and that ‘reforms’ means a private company is making a profit on your operation, you realise that the reason people are dying in ambulances is that the health of the nation has become just another business opportunity.
With an electorate that strongly believes in a publicly funded health service, the businesses privatising the health service are using the language of compassion to justify their own profiteering. Branson professes his love for free healthcare while at the same time suing the NHS when Virgin failed to gain the Surrey Children’s Services contract. This intimidating behaviour successfully gained Virgin £328,000, with some reports suggesting the figures involved were over 2 million pounds. We'd suggest this aggressive, commercial behaviour at odds with 'loving the NHS'.
Branson’s involvement in the NHS demonstrates how incompatible private profiteering is with healthcare. Faced with a battle against corporate giants it is easy to feel despondent. This issue has never been voted on - there was no referendum on this, no politician has had any mandate to sell off our health services. With life-threatening failings across Health and Social care, resulting in an estimated 30,000 excess deaths in 2015, there has never been a more necessary time to use all the resources we have to fight for our proudest achievement in public services. The NHS Anti-Swindle Team refuse to believe that your entitlement to healthcare should be dictated by the size of your bank balance, so rather than being alienated and powerless, let’s remember who it really belongs to and that nothing is irreversible. We are the majority and we will fight for the renationalisation of our health service.
We are keen to link up with artists, musicians and performers who wish to make work about the NHS sell-off and wish to creatively challenge the pro-private control narrative put forward by politicians and financiers. On 5th July 2018, the NHS will be 70 years old. We are going to be celebrating with a party in central London. There will be singing, dancing, and games: pass the PFI parcel, pin the fail on the crony, and pick the cherries of the birthday cake. We invite you to get involved and help us celebrate in the most creative and subversive way we can and renationalise our NHS.