Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/765/16683
Stop the health cuts!
Trade union-led national action on NHS needed now
A London NHS worker
The chair of the National Health Service (NHS) regulator has warned that pressure on Accident and Emergency (A&E) units is "out of control... [and] totally unsustainable".
David Prior, head of the Care Quality Commission, was reported as saying it meant he could not guarantee against any future scandals similar to the highly publicised tragedy of Mid Staffordshire NHS.
This increasing pressure has led to a number of A&Es struggling to hit targets for waiting times. Bizarrely, Mr Prior's response to this appears to be to call for fewer, not more, resources.
He told the King's Fund health think tank that "if we don't start closing acute beds, the system is going to fall over". He believes that the increased pressure is due to people "misusing" A&E services for less serious health problems, which they would apparently be less likely to do if they knew there were less resources!
Anyone who thinks about this, even briefly, will see the lie in it. Clearly, those who do not actually need the services will never be sent on to acute beds; however if beds are cut it will be the patients who do need these services that will be left waiting for longer.
The BBC's health correspondent Nick Triggle, reporting on the story, mentioned some more believable reasons for the increased demand on A&Es, including: "A rise in the number of people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, that end up having emergencies; the ageing population; and problems accessing out-of-hours GP care."
This shows the need for more staff and resources, not less. Triggle also made a fleeting but telling reference to "staffing problems". 6,000 nursing jobs across the NHS have been cut since the Con-Dems came to power, with that number expected to double by 2015.
This story also raises further concerns over plans to close four A&Es across north-west London. Communities covered by Ealing, Central Middlesex, Charring Cross, and Hammersmith hospitals have been campaigning against the closure of their A&E services, which would mean in an emergency they would have to travel to one of the remaining A&Es at five other hospitals covering the wider area.
How five A&Es are expected to take on the previous workload of nine while maintaining waiting list targets is not clear, although perhaps a hidden agenda is revealed later in Mr Prior's speech when he blamed the NHS's apparent problems on the lack of a health market.
Aside from the fact that an internal market has existed, and has been undermining the NHS, for over 20 years now, this also hints at the future of healthcare in north-west London, and nationally.
When the remaining hospitals struggle with the additional demand and become "failing" hospitals, the bloodsuckers of the market will step in. This is so much easier now under the Health and Social Care Act.
No one who works for the NHS would claim it is perfect, but we must fight to defend and improve it, as opposed to running it into the ground to be replaced with a system that puts profits over patients, which is the true aim of scare stories like this.
The London demonstration (see box) can help pull together health workers and campaigners as we have seen in many other local demos.
However, these must be followed by a national demonstration to focus the defence of the NHS.
The trade unions must take the lead in this campaign, including building for coordinated industrial action and a 24-hour general strike, to stop the government's destructive agenda.
Defend London's NHS
All-London demo organised by trade unions and health campaigners.
Saturday 18 May. Assemble 12 noon, Jubilee Gardens, Waterloo.
(See video of demo above)
National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN)
Defend the NHS - new bulletin
Downloadable resource - available at:
In The Socialist 15 May 2013:
Fight the bedroom tax
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