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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 February 2010

East London

Save our A&E!

DESPITE OVERWHELMING public opposition, health bosses are pushing through their plan to 'reconfigure' NHS services in north east London. If implemented, this will result in the closure of the Accident and Emergency department and maternity services at King George's Hospital in Ilford. Patients in an emergency will have no choice but to travel all the way to Queen's Hospital in Romford.

Simon Carter

Transferring the A&E, critical care and maternity services will put even more pressure on overstretched resources at Queen's. Patients' lives will be put at risk. Yet, unbelievably, health officials claim that "operating A&E from fewer sites can deliver better care".

The real reason behind this closure threat is the health trust's decision to make cuts to claw back its huge accumulated deficit. Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust is 100 million in the red.

One reason for the deficit is successive Tory and Labour governments' market oriented policies. After years of chronic under-investment and saddled with high Private Finance Initiative (PFI) interest charges, many trusts have a deficit, pushing them to bankruptcy.

All new hospital buildings, including Queen's, are financed through PFI. Private corporations build and own the new hospital, then are paid by the NHS to use it, usually for 30 years, and then the private firms still own it after that!

PFI schemes are like buying a house with a credit card instead of a mortgage. Interest payments come out of running costs so beds and staff are cut (by an average in England of 25% and 15% respectively).

This attempt to downgrade King George's must be fought, with protest rallies, meetings, lobbies and demonstrations, linking the local community with health service workers and trade unions throughout north east London.

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