Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/392/4438
NHS - Stop the profit vultures
DURING THE election, Blair and other New Labour politicians said they were pumping money into the NHS to save vital services. But across the country, a serious funding crisis is hitting NHS Trusts.
Take Lewisham Hospital in south London as an example. Management there are threatening to cut £8.5 million of spending as a result of impossible demands to "improve services but reduce costs."
Lewisham is having to slash 5% of its spending. So both B4 - a general surgery ward - and Bell Ward (general medical) which have 40 beds between them, are earmarked to close.
The ward sister on B4 ward told a local newspaper: "All my staff are absolutely devastated. They all work extra hours to deal with the ever-increasing workload and the bureaucracy. Now the team will be broken up, and patient care will suffer."
Management have not even ruled out redundancies. All the hospital spokesperson says is: "Our modernisation programme means new ways of working, often requiring fewer, not more, beds!"
Lewisham Socialist Party councillor Ian Page commented: "Staff say that B4 ward alone cares for about 1,000 patients a year and closure would produce longer waiting lists and mean people waiting longer in casualty. The trade unions and local community must oppose ward closures and support the hospital's dedicated staff."
Many of the NHS's problems are due to the extra costs that such schemes as the private finance initiative (PFI) bring. Handing over the NHS to the far from tender care of the market is Labour government policy. It is also very short-sighted. Hospitals are forced to compete with each other for patients.
Charing Cross hospital in west London bought a private hospital for £14 million in 2002 so it could carry out more operations. But it lost 'business' ie patients to private treatment centres, it now has huge debts and has already closed one ward and management threaten to shut down the entire hospital.
Despite all this, New Labour still intend to use more and more private facilities to treat NHS patients - that will be up to around 15%, health secretary John Reid threatens.
No wonder that, during the election campaign, many NHS staff complained that much of New Labour's 'new money' is going straight into the pockets of the private sector. There is absolutely no sign of this improving the level or quality of care. Quite the opposite.
- Save the NHS! No more cuts and closures.
- Reverse all privatisation. Rebuild the NHS under democratic control and ensure it is free at the point of use.
- Abandon PFI. Fund new hospital building programmes through central government, using direct labour.
- Massively increase spending on health care.
In The Socialist 12 May 2005: