Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/410/4655
Hands off our hospitals!
BIG BUSINESS is queuing up to try and make big money out of the NHS. But every week, in many different areas, there are new protests at policies that put profit before health care.
LUKE AYLWARD from Lincolnshire Socialist Party reports on a recent demonstration against cutbacks in Grantham's hospitals.
ON SATURDAY 1 October, around 1,500 people demonstrated against proposed cuts at Grantham Hospital, Lincolnshire. These cuts would involve one ward closing, the accident and emergency (A&E) department being removed in the longer term and the most seriously ill cases being referred to a hospital in Lincoln, which is almost ninety minutes away by bus.
Lincolnshire NHS Trust bosses said that critical cases would be moved to Lincoln due to 'modernisation', not cuts. However, modernisation for them means handing the NHS over to the free market.
The Trust's chair claimed there was "no alternative" to closing the wards. But on the demo, people were shouting "Sack the Trust". Their main concern was the cut in critical care, part of a scheme to reduce the local Trust's deficit.
The A&E department's immediate future is safe, but protesters questioned for how long. One speaker at the rally, Dr. Keith Sands, favoured the cuts. But local people said that since Dr. Sands started at Grantham Hospital, 40 beds had been closed, and a transition ward that only opened in January was closed last month.
The Grantham cuts, initially part of a Trust plan to recover an £8 million deficit, also involved closing another four wards (two in Boston, two in Lincoln) and cutting 300 jobs and 150 beds.
Local people were angry at how the hospital's future has been jeopardised. Many people said they hated Grantham-born Margaret Thatcher and all she stood for. Thatcher's love of cuts in services lives on in the form of the Blair government and the local NHS trust. The people of Grantham will be as active as anyone else in fighting the NHS' destruction.
End privatisation. Bring all health care into one nationally planned and properly financed service.
Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS.
Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by building companies and banks. Fund new hospital building programmes with public money, using direct labour.
Unite the campaigns to defend the NHS - For a national demonstration to build support for industrial action.
No to private hospitals
A HEALTH care 'entrepreneur', former Goldman Sachs merchant banker Ali Parsa, has raised £100 million from his friends in the City of London. He intends to build a chain of private hospitals, run for private profit, across England.
He is taking his cue from Blair's encouragement of private money in the health service. From 2008, New Labour will let NHS patients go to any hospital - public or private - that can work within NHS cost limits.
So Parsa and friends want to profit from medical need. Under Labour's plans, private hospitals could take from 10% to 15% of the NHS 'market'. Their market madness has already led to more than 50 NHS Trusts facing huge deficits and the threat of cuts in jobs and services. This is despite record government spending on health.
What is worse, New Labour's encouragement of such 'enterprise' threatens the National Health Service's very existence.
Britain's biggest private health provider BUPA sponsored this year's Labour conference fringe meeting discussion on "Your good health." Health ministers include characters like Liam Byrne, a former Andersen consultant and investment banker - he's a fan of the 'business-friendly' NHS.
The battle for the NHS is on. Around the country, people are asking: Can we trust our health, even our lives, to profit-hungry businesses?
Private firms already make fortunes from the infamous Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes that build 'new' hospitals with fewer beds for patients and fewer medical staff than previously but at enormous profit, both short-term and long-term.
ALL OUT-of-hours services in general practitioner care could be farmed out to private health firms despite concerns about the quality of their service for patients. Private firms have been linked to several deaths resulting from what are alleged to be poor emergency treatment for patients at night and at weekends.
Last month, for example, an inquest into nine-month-old Elliejo Marson's death was told that the private out-of-hours service Primecare's inability to have the girl admitted to hospital may have led to her death from bronchial pneumonia.
Despite this, NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp has told local health authority heads to use private firms more and more. From December 2008 the publicly run Primary Care Trusts will provide services directly only "where it is not possible to have separate providers".
In The Socialist 6 October 2005: