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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 October 2007

National Health Service Cutbacks and privatisation kill

Build for the 5 November demo

NHS demonstrations 3 March 2007., photo Paul Mattsson

NHS demonstrations 3 March 2007., photo Paul Mattsson

HEALTH SERVICE workers and users in Kent were shocked at news that hundreds of deaths over three years have been blamed on epidemics of illness caused by the bacterium clostridium difficile in hospitals in Maidstone, Pembury and Tunbridge Wells. Up to 345 patients may have died from it, some five times as many contracted it and suffered complications as a result.

Nigel Sheahan and Julian Wilson, Tunbridge Wells and Hastings Socialist Party

The NHS trust covered up the size of the problem for two years claiming only 21 deaths had been caused. Inspectors and bereaved relatives were not informed about the epidemic's scale.

The bug was allowed to spread due to filthy conditions and lack of cleaning staff. The trust was obsessed with reaching financial saving targets and funding a PFI deal instead of looking after patients' health.

A secretly filmed investigation had earlier exposed conditions in Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, described by an inspector as "the dirtiest I have ever seen". Privatisation of cleaning services had led to cutbacks and falling standards. Wards were mopped with the same mops used for the toilets. Patients lay in dirty linen, showers and commodes were not cleaned properly and dirty mugs and plates were left in sinks in isolation areas.

The trust chairperson has now resigned, which followed the departure of the trust chief executive, Rose Gibb, by "mutual consent". She had been promised a 250,000 'golden handshake' despite her incompetence and cover-up, but as the police moved to investigate whether mass corporate manslaughter charges could be brought, health secretary Alan Johnson was compelled to suspend this payment.

This Kent scandal is the tip of the iceberg. Twenty-two of the 67 NHS foundation trusts are falling short of their targets set for reducing hospital-acquired infections. In pursuit of the cuts agenda NHS trusts across Britain seek swingeing cuts in services including closing maternity wards, accident and emergency departments, and entire hospitals, placing patients at greater risk.

Charges for dental treatment and the fact that around half of dentists are no longer treating NHS patients at all, have lead to the recently exposed horror of people resorting to treating themselves including pulling out their own teeth.

In the government's enthusiasm to turn the NHS into a business, privatising and 'reforming' as much as they can, lives have been lost and many have suffered.

Socialists and health campaigners, together with the NHS trade unions, must continue to expose the government's privatisation and cuts agenda and its many tragic consequencies.

The only way to keep the NHS really safe is to kick out all private contractors and for it to be fully funded and under democratic control and accountability. Keep the vultures of privatisation out of our health service!

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In The Socialist 17 October 2007:

National Health Service Cutbacks and privatisation kill

National NHS demo

The vultures are circling ever closer

10,000 march in Sussex

Swansea fights the cuts

Rally for Socialism

Postal dispute

Exposing Royal Mail's lies

Postal workers waiting to assess Royal Mail deal

Fighting Royal Mail management's attacks

Solid unofficial action in East London

National Shop Stewards' Network meetings

Daylight robbery in Scotland!

Save Bolsover Post Offices

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Brown's blues

International Appeal

Students on trumped-up charges

Socialist Students

Scrap fees for all students

National Shop Stewards Network

Young workers and students need to get involved

"You've got to stick together"

Stop the placement rip-off now!

Campaign for a New Workers Party

Tony Benn evades the issue

Trade Union Freedom Bill

Trade Union Freedom Bill: Banishing Thatcher's anti-union legacy?

Working longer hours for less pay

Socialist Party women

ITV2 - making a good deal out of women's bodies

International socialist news and analysis

Workers' struggle and political instability sends Polish government into meltdown

Australia: Liberals v Labour - no choice for working people in election

Socialist Party news and analysis

Children's homes at risk of buy-outs


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