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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2007

Fight cuts threat to London hospitals

ANYONE HOPING that Gordon Brown becoming prime minister might mean fewer attacks on the NHS and less privatisation, will be shocked by the latest proposals for massive cuts to London's hospitals.

Roger Shrives

A report by Brown's newly appointed health minister Sir Ara Darzi complains that 32 acute hospital trusts in London at present run a comprehensive service across 93 sites. He believes London should just have a small number of "major acute hospitals", each with a catchment area of between 500,000 and a million people.

NHS demonstration, 1 November 2006, photo Alison Hill

NHS demonstration and lobby of TUC, 1 November 2006, calls for the TUC to organise a national demonstration. photo Alison Hill

London's population is expected to be 8.2 million by 2016, so that would be at most 16 hospitals and considerably fewer A&Es. Some hospitals would either close or be changed to units specialising in the most common operations or less complex patient care.

The report talks of 'polyclinics' and urgent care centres "catering for people's needs closer to home". Most anti-cuts campaigners see these attacks on local services as being to save money rather than save lives, particularly when NHS and local authority social care facilities 'closer to home' are themselves facing cuts.

London Health Emergency warns of patients being taken on "long journeys through the capital's busy streets in a blue-light ambulance in order to access emergency care." They think nine major acute hospitals in the capital would face closure or downgrading if this plan goes through.

NHS London, the biggest of ten strategic health authorities, is led by big-business friendly top managers. Its chief executive Ruth Carnall praised the report, saying: "We are not providing the quality of care to Londoners that we should be."

You half expect her to say "but I know a firm that can!" Ms Carnall is an ex-executive director of Care UK, a private health company involved in negotiations on taking over London's primary care services. She has been in charge of these negotiations.

NHS London controls a 12.5 million budget. And as Ara Darzi says: "The London NHS estate covers more than 1.5 square miles and many hospitals are on prime sites, some of which could be released for housing", though he insists: "I'm not suggesting we sell the family silver." London needs a decent health service far more than it needs yet more luxury flats!

Who gains from these NHS 'reforms'? Not the staff who keep the service going, come what may. The Royal College of Nursing are presently balloting their members on industrial action. NHS nurses are angry at the pathetic 1.9% pay rise, a real pay cut, offered as the first stage of their pay deal. The only people to profit from these 'reforms' have been profit-hungry private bosses.

Health campaigners and trade unionists need to unite in a massive campaign to stop all the vicious NHS cuts. As a start, we need to build for the biggest possible turnout for the national demonstration led by public-sector union UNISON, which is now to be held on Saturday 3 November.

STRIKING POSTAL worker Jason Noel, from Church Hill SDO in Walthamstow, north-east London, told the socialist that he was 'shocked' at the attacks on London hospitals.

"They can always fund a war so why not just fund the hospitals we desperately need. Whipps Cross Hospital is two minutes from where I live. If I have to then go ten or fifteen minutes to another place and the waiting time is increased because they've cut the hospitals, that is going to make waiting times huge. I can't believe they're going to do that. We definitely have to fight it."

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In The Socialist 19 July 2007:

Build a new workers' party


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Fight cuts threat to London hospitals


War and terrorism

'Strategic failure' in Iraq and Afghanistan


Socialist Party news and analysis

Can flood relief get Hull back on its feet?

Bolivian oil workers request solidarity

Visteon workers walk out

Metronet - bankrupt firm, bankrupt PPP


Postal workers' strike

Postal workers - fighting low pay, against privatisation and job cuts


Council cuts threaten schools

Lewisham schools: defending 'outdated' equality

Building resistance to schools closures in Cardiff


Socialist Party youth and students

Education - not safe in Brown's hands

Boost our pay: Organising for our rights at work


International socialist news and analysis

USA: The case for socialised medicine

Living in the GDR: Balancing between two different worlds

'War crimes' accusations by mine workers


Socialist Party workplace news

Glasgow social workers vote for indefinite strike

Defend democracy - stop the witch-hunt in UNISON

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