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Mon 27 DECEMBER 2004

Smoke ban screens off privatisation plans for Health Centres

Scotland's UNISON Scotland's public service union, today accused the Scottish Executive of changing the main thrust of recent legislation, meaning radical plans for smoking bans in public places will obscure proposals to privatise Scottish Health Centres.

Both proposals are contained in the recent Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill.

"Originally, this bill was collection of miscellaneous proposals dealing with certain aspects of the Health Service in Scotland." Said Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary.

"The most controversial thing in it was the proposal to allow Health Boards to become involved in joint venture companies - called LIFTs - paying private firms to own and run your local health centres and other primary care facilities. The introduction of the ban on smoking in public places into the legislation - although this is a welcome positive step for public health - has taken the attention away from this attempt to introduce PFI/PPP into primary care."

"In the Scottish NHS tax payers have already been saddled with a commitment to pay back nearly £3bn for three PPP hospitals that cost just over £350m to build. The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary , Wishaw and Hairmyres hospitals cost around £360m to build. Since then Scottish taxpayers have paid back nearly £545m and the eventual bill from the private sector will be nearly £3bn. The Executive has already agreed to cut our losses in the case of the Skye Bridge. The last thing Scotland needs is PFI-style waste introduced into its primary care sector."

Karie Murphy, Vice Convenor of UNISON, and herself employed in the Primary Care sector, said "To introduce English privatisation into Scotland's health service in a bill that also introduces a progressive public health measure, can only confuse both issues. UNISON Scotland believes that there should be a wide-ranging consultation regarding Joint Ventures and the use of LIFT involving all sectors of the community particularly older people, children, ethnic minority ethnic groups and disabled people. To lump this important matter in with the smoking ban consultation will do nothing for accountability.

"These schemes will commit health boards to long term contacts and put extensive resources into the setting up of the scheme and into leasing and maintenance but will not own the building at the end of the contract.

"There is also concern that, as in other PFI schemes that costs will be cut and profits increased by worsening staff pay, terms of employment and career opportunities for new staff, creating a two tier workforce."


For Further Information Please Contact: Mary Maguire, (Press Officer) 0207 338 6609(w) 07771 548 957(m) Karie Murphy, (Vice-Convenor- Scotland) 07766 695 968(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)