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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 January 2012

Pontefract hospital: Army withdrawn - now kick out PFI!

Adrian O'Malley, Unison Mid Yorkshire Health branch secretary (personal capacity)

At Pontefract hospital in West Yorkshire NHS bosses had been in discussion about using army medics to help run the accident and emergency unit. The trust has now said it won't use the army, but the A&E will remain closed at night.

In October last year, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust announced the "temporary closure" of the emergency unit between 10pm and 8am at the new hospital due to a 'national shortage of medium level doctors'.

The closure was implemented in November and was met with a barrage of outrage from the local community which culminated in a public meeting where the trust board attempted to explain their decision. Hundreds of people demanded the resignation of the board and the immediate reopening of the unit overnight.

The local MP, shadow minister Yvette Cooper, has opportunistically jumped on the bandwagon attempting to blame Tory cuts for the closure. But it was New Labour's Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal which turned Pontefract hospital into a glorified out-patients department.

The new £60 million Pontefract hospital is part of a £310 million PFI also covering Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. The new PFI meant approximately 300 beds moving from Pontefract to Pinderfields along with all 'blue light' emergency services. The New Pontefract was left with a rehab ward, day surgery and out patient services.

Labour hypocrisy

Unison members campaigned against the run down in services in Pontefract, including public meetings and a march through the town centre at which the local Labour MPs were all conspicuously absent.

We said that the PFI would be the end of the Pontefract as a district general hospital and that the exorbitant cost of the PFI would lead to cuts in the NHS throughout the district.

I was interviewed on the local news about our thoughts on army doctors working in the hospital. I said that the army is usually called in when natural disasters occur not when the NHS can't cope due to staff shortages. The lessons of Pontefract hospital are that PFI and service reconfigurations are a man-made disaster which could and should have been avoided at all costs.

Mid Yorkshire Unison is calling for the immediate reopening of the A&E and the restoration of NHS services to the people of the Pontefract area.

We also call for taking the PFI scheme, which is costing the Trust £40 million a year, back into public hands and an end to the £60 million cuts package imposed by national government between 2011 and 2013.

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In The Socialist 25 January 2012:


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