Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/746/15837
NHS in crisis
Student nurse says: Give us the resources to provide care!
Becky Johnson, student nurse
A recent report flagged up rising death rates and a chronic bed crisis in the NHS. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that if you have an overcrowded hospital, are forced to discharge patients prematurely, and have a shrinking budget for a growing and aging population, the service will suffer.
The day after the report, the national press vilified nurses as uncaring and lacking compassion. Of course, there is poor care out there, but the vast majority of us, for the overwhelming majority of time are committed to doing the best we can by our patients, despite the system we work under which sets us up to fail.
We wouldn't work the hours we do for the money we get if we weren't driven by compassion for ordinary people at their most vulnerable.
David Cameron spoke in Prime Minister's Question time. Did he defend nurses as committed professionals, striving to provide care on a shoestring budget?
No, he called us "angels". How offensive! We are not - for the most part anyway - on a mission from a God. We nurse because we care!
The government cuts our budgets and gives services over to profit makers.
They should invest in the NHS. We need more beds, more qualified nurses and healthcare assistants with better training to go with it.
If you cut staff numbers, care will slip. If you cut our pay and pensions, nursing will be less appealing and if we are demonised in the press, morale will reach rock bottom. Give us the resources to provide care, so we can do what we're trained to do!
I was sad to hear the news about Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who mistakenly put through a prank call about Kate Middleton from an Australian radio programme. Given how publicly the profession as a whole has been attacked in the press, you have to wonder the level of fall-out she must have feared.
Those pro-privatisation politicians who call her death a tragedy should examine their own role in creating a culture where it is acceptable to vilify individuals who make mistakes working under enormous pressure.
Private health: the figures don't add up
Vulnerable patients with learning disabilities were subjected to a regime compared to torture at a privately owned hospital, Winterbourne View, a BBC Panorama undercover report exposed in 2011.
Now that hospital's parent company, Castlebeck, is likely to be taken over by another private healthcare company. But in the world of private health companies, nothing is straightforward.
In 2006 Castlebeck owned 17 specialist hospitals and care homes for adults and young people with learning disabilities, including Winterbourne View. The company was sold for £255 million to Castle Holdings Limited, a company associated with Barchester Healthcare Group, itself a subsidiary of Lydian Capital Partners.
The NHS paid £3,500 a week for each patient at Winterbourne View. Castlebeck profits increased from £6 million in 2006 to £31 million in 2009. Barchester was registered in Jersey and Lydian in Switzerland, so little if any tax was probably paid on these profits.
The company's business model was to use unqualified staff with minimal pay and training, ignoring the horrific treatment of patients that developed.
"Castlebeck Ltd," a report into Winterbourne said, "appears to have made decisions about profitability, including shareholder returns, over and above decisions about the effective and humane delivery of assessment, treatment and rehabilitation." Following the Panorama programme, two of the company's care homes were closed.
Castlebeck had borrowed £431 million, including £223 million from banks. The banks have now stepped in to sell off the company and recoup their debts.
Partnerships in Care, the probable buyer, is the second biggest private provider of mental health hospital beds. It is run by another company, Cinven, based in Guernsey. Patricia Hewitt, former health secretary in Tony Blair's government, was appointed as an adviser to Cinven, paid £60,000 for 18 days' work a year.
The biggest private company in the mental health hospital 'market' is Priory Healthcare, taken over in 2011 by Advent International - a huge US-based global corporation.
Revenues of UK private sector mental health hospitals are £1.1 billion. 85% of this money comes from the NHS. In 2011 there were 10,000 private mental health hospital beds, compared to 23,500 NHS beds.
An even higher percentage of care homes for learning disabled and mentally ill adults are run by the private sector. 78% of all care places are private - worth £2.86 billion in 2009 to the companies providing them.
Most of this privatisation was under the last Labour government, which is why we need a new mass workers' party to stand for rebuilding the NHS and kicking out the profiteers.
Otherwise big business will keep sucking profits out of the NHS and more patients will suffer in future Winterbourne Views.
NHS articles from the Socialist
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The sham consultation in south-east London against cuts in hospital services ends on 13 December and decisions are due in the new year. Mass opposition has been shown in the community, in particular to threats to close Lewisham hospital's A&E.
Many health workers now see the need for their unions locally and nationally to develop an even deeper campaign of action, centred around industrial action. The community opposition has scared the health bosses. Strike action, mass protest and resistance are the only language Tory cutters really understand, and would force them to back down.
On 8 December Hinckley, in Leicestershire, had its biggest demonstration in years when over 100 ambulance workers and supporters marched against the local ambulance station's threatened closure.
Local Unison stewards organised the protest against East Midlands Ambulance Service's proposals to close the region's local ambulance stations, cutting the number from 66 to 13. This money-saving exercise would cost lives.
There are many small campaigns on this issue at the moment. These need to be linked up by regionally coordinated action, called by the trade unions, and a national campaign against all attacks on the NHS.
The chief executive of the first company to take over running an NHS hospital has stepped down. Ali Parsa, CEO of Circle Holdings who took over Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, took with him a £400,000 pay-off.
Last month the National Audit Office announced that the hospital was £4 million in debt, twice the 'target level'. Wasn't the Con-Dems' false logic that private ownership would bring stability to NHS finances? No to the privatisation of our NHS!
Patients explained to Socialist Party members what they thought of the plan to downgrade the Queen Elizabeth II hospital services in Welwyn.
One woman was angry because her son, who has Down's Syndrome, was relocated to Lister hospital in Stevenage. An elderly stroke patient at the QEII was sent to Lister as the service at Welwyn was cut. Once there, this patient was discharged immediately with aspirin medication only to be diagnosed with a cerebral haemorrhage weeks later.
Socialists will rally support to defend our NHS. We also aim to stand Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates, locally in next year's county council elections to stand up for a real alternative to cuts in vital services.
In The Socialist 12 December 2012:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaigning
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news