Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/177/7947
Labour's NHS Panic
The Socialist says:
End the crisis with an immediate £20 billion transfusion into the NHS, with substantial increases in nurses and in health service pay to recruit more.
Stop the privatisation of NHS medical services.
For a massive increase in hospital building and bed provision.
Social Services and other health support services to receive a massive increase in funding to ensure that elderly and other vulnerable patients are cared for properly on leaving hospital.
AS PREDICTABLE as leaves falling off trees, the sure signs of winter approaching are already showing in the massive strains developing in the NHS.
The New Labour government is already admitting defeat before an expected flu crisis has developed. There are insufficient nurses and NHS beds to cope with the coming winter.
They are desperately calling for up to 20,000 retired and soon to be retired nurses to come back or stay in the profession. Against the NHS executive's own guidelines NHS trusts are being allowed to recruit staff from countries where there are nursing shortages - such as the Filipino nurses being brought in to staff Morriston Hospital, near Swansea.
A ward nursing manager in a large London teaching hospital told The Socialist she doubted whether these panic measures would solve any of this winter's impending problems.
"Probably the biggest reasons for the escalation of the NHS winter crises is there are still more people leaving the nursing profession than entering it. Also, elderly people are being kept in hospital longer in the winter months because of cuts in other areas of provision.
"Underfunded social services departments are running out of their budget and are unable to help elderly patients who are well enough to leave hospital but need help when they get home. Consequently, they are kept in hospital and this has a knock-on effect in the number of beds the hospitals can provide. The system is massively stretched beyond capacity."
Another former South Wales nurse doubted that many retired nurses would re-enter the profession. "Things have moved on very quickly and many will not want to retrain or feel confident in an overstretched NHS. More mistakes could be made under pressure. The reason many nurses left the NHS in the first place was because of low morale and being fed up at pay and conditions."
"While the government claims to be putting more money into the NHS this winter, much of it will go into funding private-sector beds, which will drain money from the NHS and provide expensive, poor quality care" according to the London nursing manager. "Why isn't this money going directly into the NHS rather being a backhander to private medicine?"
In The Socialist 13 October 2000: