Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/440/5207
Save jobs and services
Unison - RCN lobby of parliament in 2006, photo Paul Mattsson
WHIPPS CROSS hospital Trust in east London recently declared a £24 million deficit. 400 jobs are already under threat as are some elderly care beds. The Trust are cutting overtime and agency staff but 50 compulsory redundancies are predicted.
They are looking to cut the number of beds and want to cut operating theatres and out-patients' departments. These cuts will inevitably mean understaffed wards and clinics, which will put the remaining staff under even more pressure. Unbelievably, the Trust are paying a hatchet man no less than £1,200 every day to look for cuts to make!
At the same time, the local Primary Care Trust, which provides the community's health care, has also declared a deficit. This is putting the jobs and services of vital staff like district nurses at risk.
But none of these cuts need to happen. Millions of pounds of our money earmarked for spending on the NHS is going straight into the seemingly bottomless pockets of big business sharks. Privatisation and the 'market', that aims to set hospital against hospital for funds, are bleeding the NHS dry.
Len Hockey, a hospital porter at Whipps Cross hospital and joint secretary of the UNISON branch, says the unions at the hospital will need to fight hard for no cuts and no redundancies, including for the low-paid, mainly migrant workers who were brought in to work after the cleaning services were privatised.
A campaign of strike action at Whipps Cross in 2003 won a landmark agreement to end the inequality of pay and conditions of workers doing the same job.
Len and other hospital workers are now determined that all the union's strength, both locally and nationally should be concentrated on beating off the threats to hospitals like Whipps Cross and with it, the Blair government's attempts to put the NHS at the mercy of privatisation and marketisation.
A resolution passed at the UNISON union's health conference last month, seconded by a Socialist Party member, called for a weekday day of action in defence of the NHS. It also called for union support and encouragement for all UNISON branches facing cuts in jobs and services to organise strike action.
Who's coining money from illness?
AN ARTICLE in Hospital Doctor magazine claims that NHS managers offered "bribes" to some GPs to persuade them to send patients to a private treatment centre instead of local NHS hospitals. GPs were paid £30 for every patient sent to Greater Manchester surgical centre, a private unit run by South African company Netcare.
The Department of Health encouraged Ashton, Leigh and Wigan primary care trust (PCT) to sign a contract with Netcare guaranteeing a constant supply of NHS patients. The trust has to pay, even if patients go elsewhere, so it has a financial incentive to encourage use of Netcare's facilities.
Netcare are notorious for overcharging the NHS - every cataract operation they perform costs £115 more than it does on the NHS. After six months of its contract, West Oxfordshire PCT had paid out £225,000 for £40,000 worth of work. Netcare charged for about 500 operations and assessments but only carried out 93 of them.
PRIVATISING COMPANIES could reap £3.3 billion profits from the private finance initiative (PFI) scheme, pressure group London Health Emergency (LHE) claims.
LHE estimates that PFI schemes recently approved in London, Birmingham and St Helens will bring the companies involved £440 million windfall profits. What's more, it reckons, the private sector stands to make £2 billion bonus payouts from £10 billion worth of PFI schemes in the pipeline.
Under PFI, private firms raise the money to design and build a hospital, which NHS trusts must then pay back - with interest of course - over 20 to 30 years. The PFI's private consortia and their shareholders are bleeding billions out of the NHS.
The Socialist Party fights for
- No to NHS job losses, cuts and closures.
- No to health privatisation and 'the market'. Rebuild the NHS as a publicly funded service free at the point of use, and with immediate cash to end the crisis of under-funding.
- Abandon the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). No more profiteering by building companies and banks. All new hospitals to be built with public funding, not for private profit.
- Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy chains and medical supply industry and integrate them into a democratically controlled NHS.
- Unite the many campaigns already in existence to defend the NHS.
- The unions should name the day for a national weekday demonstration against the attacks on NHS jobs and services.
- Prepare for a one-day strike of NHS workers, with NHS staff deciding levels of emergency cover.
- The health unions should stop giving money to New Labour, whose pro-market policies are destroying the NHS. Join the Campaign for a New Workers' Party.
Nursing staff speak out
THOUSANDS OF nurses and other health staff joined the RCN-organised lobby of parliament on 11 May. Some of the protesters spoke to Christine Thomas about why they were on the lobby.
MOST OF the hospitals are in loads of debt, trying to reach targets that the government have set. They're closing down wards, staff are being made redundant and patients are being put at risk. We are concerned about all of that.
Obviously the Health Secretary is in complete denial and delusional about the situation and we're angry about that. We want something done, we want to be heard and we want changes to be made.
I'M A nurse from Bath. At a local level we've got the Bath spa project which cost £45 million to build when there's a lack of beds and basic needs in our hospital. They build up a national war chest for Iraq and now maybe Iran, spending money where they think the priorities are.
I'M A newly qualified nurse. I worked really hard during my three-year course, making sacrifices, my children having to go to nursery.
I thought that when I finished I would get a job straight away. But since September I haven't been able to get a job. All that money spent on training me has been wasted.
Most of the hospitals are asking for people with six months or 12 months experience. And because of the cuts, ward managers say they can't employ new staff. So that's why I'm here today.
We need change. Otherwise patients will be suffering, there'll be no staff on the wards. On some wards one member of staff can be expected to look after 15 to 20 patients.
Some of those are critical wards where patients can go into cardiac arrest and staff aren't able to look after them properly because of the workload. We need change because of patient safety and for nurses as well.
We need a national demo
HEALTH WORKERS marched to stop the closure of Ruston Mental Health unit in Narborough, Leicestershire on 12 May. The local Health Trust plans to move the service to an acute ward, arguing that it will be best for patients. However, this is simply a cost-cutting measure, and will have a damaging effect on patients accommodated at Ruston.
The workers were angry at the government's attacks on the NHS. One nurse, a UNISON shop steward, said: "Campaigns against these cuts are taking place all over the country, but they need to link up. We need a national demonstration to unite these campaigns. We need to keep the momentum going and take forward the campaign, as there won't be any service left if we don't act fast."
Leicester Socialist Party members, who have been campaigning for months against the attacks on the NHS, will help build for an organising meeting. There is real anger everywhere against cuts, closures, and job losses.
In The Socialist 18 May 2006:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Campaign for a New Workers Party
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis