Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/412/4681
Health service... condition critical!
EVIDENCE IS piling up about the damage which Labour's policies are doing to the health service. A senior member of staff at a Lincolnshire hospital summed it up this week when they wrote in an anonymous letter to management: "If you close your eyes and thought this was happening in a Third World country, you would be saddened by the events."
The worker described how a ward closure at Grantham hospital was forcing some staff to work 19-hour shifts, whilst patients are having to wait for hours on trolleys before getting any treatment.
But this isn't an isolated example. Health service workers and campaigners all over the country are having to fight devastating cuts and closures:
Hammersmith Hospitals Trust is having to make cuts of £29 million to cover its deficit. And there is a further deficit at specialist orthopaedic centre, Ravenscourt Park.
The Trust want to sell off Ravenscourt Park and cut beds at Charing Cross Hospital. But one doctor at a recent Trust meeting explained the seriousness of the situation: "We cannot keep cutting. If we have to do this again next year, there is no question that patients will be turned away".
Stockport NHS Trust has been granted elite foundation status. It is due to open a new unit at Stepping Hill hospital next year. But it has also announced a £5 million deficit and is considering cutting jobs.
Protestors were outside Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest on 17 October. The local NHS trust is £11 million in the red and has to 'save' £4 million by next April.
Operating theatre access is being cut, beds are being closed and other services are to be cut, like district nurse overnight cover. If these cuts go ahead, patients will be put at risk as they have to travel further for treatment.
Elsewhere, the trade union Amicus is warning about the threat to jobs, particularly those of community nurses, because of the financial crisis in primary care trusts.
The Audit Commission has already warned that the new 'payment by results' method of NHS funding will result in more ward closures and jeopardise emergency services.
But don't worry, an essential part of Labour's health policies is to hive anything profitable off to big business. So a successful orthopaedic centre in Epsom, south London is about to be handed over to an American company. And the government is apparently preparing to underwrite the costs to make sure it succeeds.
University Hospital in London is also considering linking up with a private company to provide diagnostic imaging services and with another private company to provide cancer services.
1,500 people demonstrated against the cuts in Grantham on 1 October. But protests like these need to be linked up into a national, trade union-organised demonstration.
The health service is in mortal danger from the cutters and privateers. The government will not stop until the NHS is nothing more than an agency for booking you into one private facility or another.
Unite the campaigns to defend the NHS - for a national demonstration to build support for industrial action.
End privatisation. Bring all health care into one nationally planned and properly financed service.
A weekend of discussion and debate.
- NHS plc - a forum on how to fight to save the NHS.
Speakers include: John Lister, from Keep Our NHS Public and Chris Flood, health worker and Socialist councillor.
In The Socialist 20 October 2005: