Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/514/3552
Warning: NHS cuts seriously damage your health
On the 3 November Save the NHS march, photo Paul Mattsson
AS THE year ends, the grim reality of privatisation and a market-driven NHS is clear. A report published on 4 December by the government's own health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, exposes how badly private hospitals and clinics providing NHS services have performed.
We already know that it costs more to treat someone in a private clinic or hospital than it does on the NHS and this recent report shows that standards are often no better. It stated that "5% of independent establishments failed five or more quality standards".
Mental health patients have had to suffer appalling service from private providers. For example, alarmingly, 17% of these 'providers' failed to meet the required minimum standard for restraining patients safely. Many providers had poor premises and inadequate resuscitation facilities.
A year of devastating cuts to services has also taken a heavy toll on primary care trusts. Their overall performance has deteriorated. More than half of primary care trusts failed to keep up-to-date registers of patients diagnosed by GPs with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
The Healthcare Commission report stated that "the registers are not being updated and patients are not regularly called back to have their cholesterol or diabetes checked. That means there is a real risk that the person appears as an emergency in the hospital or appears in the surgery fairly ill."
Paediatric services were also found wanting. The Commission found that "in a substantial minority of hospitals, levels of activity, training and emergency cover are so low as to put children at unnecessary risk... and in 18% of trusts paediatric life support was not available to deal with serious emergencies at night".
Ambulance services are also hit by the cost-cutting frenzy sweeping the NHS. The current shake-up of the service will mean that standard double-manned ambulance vehicles can be downgraded to 'solo responders', ie 'fast respond' vehicles with one worker.
In many areas, including London and the East Midlands, ambulance numbers will be reduced and replaced by solo responders. Where two-manned vehicles remain, one of the crew may be an emergency care assistant, not a fully qualified paramedic.
As an ambulance workers' representative pointed out: "We are trying to do things on the cheap and that is never good for patients". He says: "we are already hearing of solo-responders transporting patients, but that is not right as you cannot manage the patient if you are driving".
So another year of privatisation and cost-cutting and all this is the result. But still the response from the health trade union leaders is found wanting. All we have had is one belated national demonstration where we were asked to 'celebrate' the NHS and not fight to save it! Luckily, campaigners from around the country turned it into a more militant demonstration, clearly against cuts and privatisation.
In the new year, we must step up the campaign to link struggles together around the country and build a united movement with a national focus. We need to back industrial and strike action of NHS workers and demand action from our union leaders.
With a fighting strategy, we can ensure that the NHS meets its 60th birthday next July, intact and as a publicly funded service free for all at the point of use.
In The Socialist 13 December 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Post Office dispute
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis