Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/459/1535
Healthcare Commission report
Whitewashing New Labour's NHS policies
THE RECENT Healthcare Commission's report on the performance of 570 NHS trusts up and down the country, deemed that half of trusts are 'weak' in providing quality of service and managing resources.
Dr Jackie Grunsell,councillor Huddersfield Save our NHS, Kirklees council
In particular, 37% of trusts appear to have failed to manage their finances well in the year starting March 2005. Just 3% scored 'excellent' on financial management, 13% were 'good' and 47% were 'fair'. These results were based on reports by the Audit Commission and Monitor (which reports on Foundation Trusts).
The report shows that the government's flagship Foundation Trusts are failing to provide a high quality of service. Although it appears they perform better on financial management, they are judged on different criteria to NHS Trusts as they are allowed to borrow money and go into deficit.
For most of the trusts scored as weak on managing resources, this was only because they failed to meet financial targets such as breaking even.
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) did particularly badly with 67% of them scoring fair or weak for quality of service and 92% scoring fair or weak for use of resources. It's worth mentioning that the commission's method of obtaining information was a bit questionable. This was done by self-assessment by trusts, relying on them to honestly own up to problems.
A follow-up random survey found that 42% misreported or embroidered their results, 10% did this so badly that their overall score had to be downgraded. But the report also takes no account of patients' views and experiences.
Write off deficit
THE HEALTHCARE Commission has now given failing trusts 30 days to draw up plans to improve the situation. However this report gives no indication of why this state of affairs has developed and how it can be overcome.
It makes no comment on the role of central government and the consequences of trusts being forced to balance their books. For those trusts in deficit, meeting financial targets means making cuts in services.
The report does not comment on the millions of pounds wasted on consultancy fees. Over the past two years the trusts have spent £10.6 million on fees on top of £11 million spent centrally by the Department of Health.
The report doesn't mention that Britain's healthcare system has been the most 'reformed' - in the direction of marketisation - of anywhere in Europe since 1997 when New Labour came to power. Whereas in the 1980s, administration costs in the NHS were approximately 4% of the overall budget, they now amount to 16%.
The report also does not reveal the millions of £s being pocketed by big business, who are profiting from healthcare thanks to the government forcing through more and more privatisations. This is money that could be spent on patient care and staffing.
A genuinely independent report is needed, looking at how health services can really be improved for the benefit of patients. This would have to start by demanding that the government immediately writes off the NHS deficit and also must call for an end to privatisation of the NHS.
Bring the NHS into public ownership and rebuild it as a publicly funded service free at the point of use, with immediate cash to end the crisis of under-funding.
Remove the trusts, abolish the internal market. Representatives of NHS workers, trade unions and health service users should make decisions about how the NHS is run and what its priorities are.
No to health privatisation and 'the market'.
Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by construction companies and banks. All new hospitals to be built with public funding, not for private profit. They should also use direct labour.
Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry under working-class control and management to end the massive subsidy these parasites drain from the NHS. Integrate these services into a democratically controlled NHS.
A socialist programme to eliminate poverty and inequality - the biggest killer and cause of ill-health.
In The Socialist 22 October 2006:
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