Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/421/4925
NHS: Condition critical
People with the same heart condition that Tony Blair was treated for - an irregular heartbeat - have been knocked off the waiting list of the Oxford Radcliffe NHS trust.
Told that their condition was not serious enough, they have been condemned to a life limited by severe breathlessness and other disabling symptoms. If these criteria had been applied to Blair then he wouldn't have been treated either.
This is yet another example of treatments being rationed because NHS trusts are striving to reach government waiting list targets while labouring under serious financial shortfalls. What makes it worse is that the trust attempted to disguise it by claiming that it was a clinical decision.
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt has launched a new initiative from 1 January, where patients can now 'choose' between at least four hospitals for non-emergency treatment.
But what choice is there for the patients refused heart treatment? What choice for the patient refused the breast cancer treatment Herceptin and forced to take her local NHS trust to court?
Most people want to be able to choose to visit their local hospital for the best treatment available but these changes could actually make that less of a possibility as 'unpopular' hospitals face closure.
Labour claim to be putting record amounts of money into the health service, in reality 25 years of chronic under-spending on the NHS means that they are scratching the surface.
However, their forcing through of Tory policies championing the private sector, such as the Private Finance Initiative, private treatment centres, foundation hospitals etc means that health trusts are paying huge amounts of cash to the private sector (see page 3) to pay off the bloated costs of PFI deals, to buy in operations and to pay for new drugs.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Like Tweedledum to Blair's Tweedledee, David Cameron calls for greater involvement of the private sector, the very thing that is bringing the NHS to its knees.
The NHS is the most tangible expression of the gains made by working class people in the twentieth century. Blair's ideology of the free market and his pro-big business policies are threatening this last bastion of the welfare state.
Working-class people aren't fooled by the spin. As in Huddersfield, where there have been big protests against cuts, they know their health service, their local hospital, is under threat like never before.
We need to fight back. The public sector trade unions should call a national demonstration to save the NHS, drawing together all the local campaigns. We need an alternative to the big business policies of the three main parties, a new mass workers' party that could fight to kick the private sector out of our public services.
Above all, we need an alternative that puts ordinary people first, that advocates using the vast wealth in society for the benefit of everyone, not just a privileged few.
In other words, socialism.
In The Socialist 5 January 2006: