No more debt for the NHS.

No hedge-fund stranglehold for the NHS. Let’s co-operate instead.

Debt from hedge funds to ease the squeeze in the NHS?

This madly dangerous proposal comes from Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement.

His big new idea is for the NHS to take advantage of historically low interest rates and bypass the Tory stranglehold.

The NHS already pays £2bn a year in charges on Private Finance Initiative contracts. Taking on more debt can only increase the burden. It is sure to become heavier when interest rates rise. The NHS would be at the mercy of the asset-stripping vulture funds.

You can’t accuse the Tories of short-termism, but this goes way beyond their 2005 strategy to replace the state as health service provider.

What is certain is that the NHS is at breaking point.

Last year shadow chancellor John McDonnell launched his ‘new economics’. He says ‘Co-operatives, shared ownership, and workplace democracy all have a central role to play’, but so far he hasn’t joined the dots. He hasn’t suggested that health and social care could be run on co-operative principles. He’s only demanded that chancellor Hammond increases the budget.

McDonnell and his advisers might learn something from a new initiative. The Gateway Dental Practice in Abergavenny is the first employee owned NHS dental practice in Wales. The practice uses a structure similar to the John Lewis Partnership, with 100% of the organisation’s shares now owned by a Trust on behalf of the employees. All 17 members of staff have an equal stake in the business, with the Trust overseeing the practice to ensure it’s run in their best interest.

Dr Hannah Hutchison, dentist and co-operative shareholder at Gateway says “We hope Gateway will become a model for sustainable healthcare practices across Wales in the not so distant future.”

It’s a principle that a real democracy would extend to the whole economy – including the hated financial sector.