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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 May 2006

Stop the threats to the NHS


JOBS AND services across Greater Manchester NHS trusts are under serious threat. Pennine Acute Trust plans to slash 800 jobs to try to tackle a 21 million deficit. That trust runs four hospitals - North Manchester General, Royal Oldham, Rochdale Infirmary and Fairfield General in Bury.

But they're not the only threatened cuts. Frustrated by mass opposition to their attacks on Salford and Trafford maternity and neonatal facilities (respectively), management are now planning to run-down neonatal care at Wythenshawe Hospital.

Neonatal care is for prematurely-born infants. Loss of the vital services there would mean tiny babies flown miles across Manchester and even to Oldham!

During the local elections we talked to many people whose children had been in the neonatal intensive care unit. Staff from the unit told us they opposed it shutting. These facilities are there because they're necessary - they're not just some corner that axe-wielding management can cut.

Under the cuts plans, there will be more maternity services, but with less facilities and far fewer specialised staff for premature babies! How does this make sense?

NHS bosses backed off from cutting neonatal services in Trafford in the face of our campaign stalls, petitions, leaflets and actions two years ago. At Hope Hospital in Salford, threats to attack maternity services have gone quiet after massive local opposition became clear. Now they're attacking Wythenshawe.

This is part of an overall cuts plan by NHS bosses that in turn comes from the national funding and staffing crisis created by New Labour and the Tories before them. Our campaigns, and others, show that only mass protests and action will force the axe-men to back off.

We'll be battling to retain full neonatal services at Wythenshawe - and not at the expense of elsewhere! We fully support staff in Pennine Acute Trust taking action to defend their jobs.

The battles to defend jobs and services can't be separated and we hope to forge strong links between campaigns across Greater Manchester as part of the urgently needed national campaign to rebuild the NHS.

By Manchester Socialist Party members

What the socialist says:

Whipps Cross meeting

OVER 20 people including eight workers from Whipps Cross hospital came to the Socialist Party election public meeting on the NHS in Waltham Forest, northeast London.

One health worker explained that the Trust has given 250,000 to consultants Ernst&Young to advise them on "how to save money". 250,000 would pay the wages of ten full-time nurses!

The "guesstimate" is that the Trust will be looking to get rid of 350 full-time posts because of its deficit. There have been no agency staff since at least the beginning of the year. One auxiliary nurse explained how she was the only support worker on an acute elderly ward with 24 beds.

Just one nurse is now expected to deal with non able-bodied patients instead of two. Staff ill-health is increasing but there are no agency staff to replace them, drastically increasing the pressure and workload on remaining staff.

"Where has all the money gone?," asked another nurse. "Not at ward level but into executive pockets. Morale is non-existent. Management have lost touch with the people on the ground - they are the people who should be in charge."

The meeting agreed to launch a campaign against the cuts at Whipps Cross hospital and the attacks on the NHS nationally. Health workers and members of the community at the meeting were keen to link up with similar campaigns around the country.

They will be putting pressure on public sector union UNISON to name the day for a national demonstration to show New Labour the enormous anger that exists on this issue.

PFI bloodsucking in Norwich

PARLIAMENT'S 'WATCHDOG' on public spending, the public accounts committee, has criticised the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and its bloodsucking role in the NHS.

The committee says some of Britain's biggest business names took millions out of a big hospital project, leaving it facing debts that could reach as high as 14.8 million by the end of this year.

In Norfolk and Norwich hospital, one of the Blair government's PFI forerunners, the rule of private capital is forcing the hospital to threaten to cut hundreds of jobs to try to balance its books after a contract to amalgamate two old hospitals on a new site.

The project took 16 years and was completed in 2001. Two years later, Barclays, Serco, Innisfree and John Laing decided to refinance their joint working company, Octagon, to take early profits.

By increasing the borrowings from 200 million to more than 300 million and putting off the repayment date from the year 2017 to 2037, they took away a 115 million windfall of which only 34 million got back to the hospital trust.

The committee chair, Edward Leigh, called this example of privatisers' greed and theft, "the unacceptable face of capitalism."

That's putting it mildly. The refinancing lined fat cats' pockets, putting their rate of return up from an already generous 16% to a truly greedy 60%. The trust may now have to pay up to 257 million if it wants to terminate the contract early.

PFI deals in the NHS aren't all as extreme as that but all of them have been very profitable for the bosses and very expensive for the NHS.

We say abolish the PFI and other privatisation schemes. We need public services fully funded by taxation that could provide good-quality care to patients rather than massive profits for capitalist investors.

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In The Socialist 11 May 2006:

Socialist Party election analysis

Victory for NHS campaign

Huddersfield: voters choose a socialist and a fighter!

Third socialist councillor elected in Coventry

Increased votes for socialism in Lewisham

Stoke - BNP wins close-run election

Excellent results for the Socialist Party

Local elections: A death blow for Blair?

Dangers in Respect's development

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Stop the threats to the NHS

International socialist news and analysis

Female factory workers in Russia start hunger strike

Venezuela: Fight for socialism

Iraq - the nightmare continues

Germany: 'Unity' at the expense of the working class

Morales takes on 'Big Oil'

Socialist Party workplace news

Postal union rejects pay offer

Student union leaders hide truth about lecturers' action


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